Lucas County commissioners Carol Contrada and Pete Gerken
The Blade/Lori King
Lucas County commissioners made clear Tuesday their position on the movement by Ohioans for Workplace Freedom to place a “right-to-work” constitutional amendment on the November, 2014, ballot.
By a unanimous vote, and after joining union leaders in a news conference in One Government Center, the Democratic commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing a proposal that would stop employers from requiring workers who opt out of union membership to make fair-share payments in lieu of dues.
Commissioner Pete Gerken, a former United Auto Workers Union officer, said allowing Ohio to become a “right-to-work” state would be an attack on employees and their salaries and benefits, and working class families.
“We know this county and city is built on the rights of working people, the backs of working people, and the wages of working people,” Mr. Gerken said during the press conference. “We are not against collective bargaining. We are not against employers’ rights to make profits. We are for the right of workers to organize, have a collective voice, to be at the table."
The commissioner made comparisons to Senate Bill 5, the proposed collective bargaining restrictions that Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2011, and legislation that made Michigan a “right-to-work” state.
Tina Skeldon Wozniak said that workers in states with “right-to-work” laws take home about 10 percent less in their paychecks.
“With ‘right-to-work’ laws in place, people make less money. That hurts the economy,” she said.
A group called Ohioans for Workplace Freedom has been collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would stop employers from requiring workers who opt out of union membership to make fair-share payments.
Current law does not compel union membership but requires fair-share payments from nonunion members to help pay for representation and other benefits.
Carol Contrada, president of the board of commissioners, said states without “right-to-work” laws have fewer workplace accidents than states with restrictions.
“The really significant thing to me are the great things labor does in paying attention to safety of workers,” she said.
George Tucker, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO council of area unions, called on Toledo City Council to take a similar stand against the ballot initiative.
“It brings the wages down and it oppresses people and it takes away discretionary money,” Mr. Tucker said of “right-to-work” laws.
Chris Littleton, spokesman for Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, said it is not the opinions of the commissioners or union leaders that count but those of voters who could cast ballots next year on the issue.
“I am disappointed at them condemning something that could be so good for Ohio's economy,” he said.