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Ohio lawmakers to push right-to-work legislation

Ohio could follow in the footsteps of neighboring Michigan and Indiana to enact right-to-work legislation.

Republican state Reps. Ron Maag of Lebanon and Kristina Roegner of Hudson plan to introduce two bills — one for the public sector and one for the private sector — that would end mandatory membership and dues payments to unions.

In letters seeking support from House members, the representatives wrote their respective bills would eliminate any requirements that public employees join or pay dues to unions and prohibit private employers from requiring union membership. Right-to-work proponents say the legislation frees workers from union obligations and leads to more business growth, while opponents say unions protect workers’ rights when employers don’t.

If enacted, Ohio would become the 25th right-to-work state — Michigan was 24th and Indiana was 23rd in 2012. Banning mandatory dues was included in 2011’s Senate Bill 5, which was voted down by Ohio voters 62 percent-38 percent.

Republican Gov. John Kasich said late last year that right-to-work was not a top priority for him.

Both Maag and Roegner voted for SB 5. The representatives’ staff members deferred questions to a press conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Roegner told a Dix Newspapers reporter that right-to-work gives states a competitive edge over other states and Ohio should discuss it.

“This is not at all Senate Bill 5. Senate Bill 5 was putting guardrails and restrictions around collective bargaining,” Roegner said. “This is giving the workers freedom, to me it’s two totally separate things.”

Democrats and labor organizations seized the issue, releasing statements condemning the proposed legislation. House Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, said Republicans “didn’t get the message” in 2011.

“So-called right to work means fewer rights, not more, for working Ohioans,” Budish said. “It would negatively impact the lives of all Ohioans, and it would particularly harm the ability of our police, firefighters and teachers to bargain for safety equipment, proper staffing levels, and class sizes, just to mention a few.”

Greg Lawson, policy analyst for free market think tank Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions said companies consider a state’s union membership policy when starting a new business or expanding.

“It’s not the only thing they look for but they do look for this,” Lawson said. “It doesn’t kill unions but it’s going to be a friendlier environment, easier to set up shop.”

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