COLUMBUS — The head of the Ohio House’s Finance Committee expects backers of Right to Work to reintroduce legislation this session implementing the policy in the state.
But Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell), who heads the House Finance Committee, said the issue likely would have to be decided by voters in the end, not the legislature.
“We’ve got a lot of thorny issues we talk about every [general assembly],” Smith said. “This one comes up every GA. We haven’t sat down and mapped out a game plan on it or anything like that. It’s something that our members, a certain amount of them, certainly care deeply about….”
He added, “Ultimately, if the people of Ohio want this, I think it will be a ballot initiative at some point in time and we’ll find out what people want to say.”
Lawmakers were asked about the Right to Work issue Wednesday during a legislative preview day organized by the Ohio Associated Press. The question arose after Republicans in Congress indicated plans to introduce national legislation to ban forced union membership and dues payments.
Proponents of right to work have said repeatedly that Ohioans shouldn't be forced to join unions or make payments to those groups.
Opponents have said repeatedly that right to work would hurt unions, leading to lower wages and less protection in Ohio workplaces.
Comparable law changes have been proposed in past general assemblies but have not moved, and an effort to place a constitutional amendment on the issue before voters stalled several years ago.
There have been rumblings of renewed efforts to move Right to Work in Ohio, given increased Republican super majorities in the Ohio House and Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) said Republicans’ attempt several years ago to restrict public employee union activities, via Senate Bill 5, was met with widespread opposition and a rejection of the law changes by voters. Right to Work would meet with comparable opposition.
“Not only is it about union people but it’s about friends and neighbors that understand the ramifications and the wage problems that Ohioans would face if something like that was to pass,” Schiavoni said. “… It’s an attack on workers’ rights every which way, from local, state and federal now.”
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) added concerning the potential federal legislation, “The implication for Ohio is when you have something like that, people actually start paying attention and show up, and that’s what SB 5 was reflective of….?”
Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) said he was one of the Republican lawmakers who voted against SB 5 at the time.
“The people of Ohio, I think, have spoken very clearly how they feel on that particular issue,” he said.
Marc Kovac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.