Don’t Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

Despite No Imminent Threat, Ohio Worker Orgs Taking Precautions Against “Right-to-Work”


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In Ohio, the organizers of the We Are Ohio movement that helped defeat SB 5 in 2012 held an event at Ohio University’s Baker Center Ballroom to warn against possible “Right-to-Work” legislation in the Buckeye State. 

Gov. John Kasich says business executives don’t feel “Right-to-Work” is needed in Ohio, but the national trend of GOP anti-unionism still makes We Are Ohio uneasy.  When Gov. Scott Walker signed “Right-to-Work” earlier this month, Wisconsin became the 25th state in the nation to pass the anti-worker law.  Walker originally called “Right-to-Work” a distraction.

Speakers at the event included acting Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith, County Commissioner Charlie Adkins, city council member Steve Patterson (he is running for mayor this year), a variety of union members and the Ohio University College Democrats. We Are Ohio’s Dennis Willard explained that workplace fatalities are 36 percent higher and wages are $535 lower (per month) in “Right-to-Work” states:

“When you take people’s voice away, when you give all the power to the employer rather than the employer and the employees working together, employers can put employees into dangerous situations and they have no recourse.”

Willard argued that “Right-to-Work” would create “poorer communities” in Ohio.  He explained how lower wages affect local economies.  

He said that if workers don’t have that extra money, they don’t order pizza on Friday night; they make mac ‘n cheese.

“So then the pizza shop goes out of business. You don’t have money to pay for your kids to take soccer lessons. You don’t have time or money to give to charities,” he said. “It makes us all poorer. You see the rich get richer and the rest of us get poorer.”

Ted Flemming, Chairman of UAW Local 211 Retired Workers Chapter and UAW Region 2B Retired Workers Council, argued that “Right-to-Work” creates a slow bleed that weakens unions: “Right-to-work creates freeloaders, the very same thing we say we don’t want to see.”

OU history professor Kevin Mattson argues that “Right-to-Work” creates problems for middle class workers across the board, not just union members. 

“The future of right-to-work must not be just a fight to unionize and that people pay their dues for unionization,” he said. “This is a war about ideas… We fight to maintain the remnants of a middle class… and we fight against a vision that turns us all into free agents all seeking out our own self-interest through underpaid jobs and lack any sense of security.” Mattson called instead for a shared sense of solidarity.


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