State Rep. Derek Merrin (R.) of Monclova Township is one of three northwest Ohioans in the General Assembly to co-sponsor a right-to-work bill in the General Assembly that would apply to public employees.
Merrin's district is the 47th, formerly held by Barbara Sears, who was termed out, and home to many union members, despite its Republican lean. The 47th District includes the municipalities of Sylvania, Ottawa Hills, Whitehouse, and Waterville, as well as the Lucas County townships of Sylvania, Richfield, Harding, Monclova, Spencer, Swanton, Waterville, and Providence. It also includes all of Fulton County except the southeast corner.
The bill would prohibit public employers, such as cities, school boards, and elected county officials from requiring employees to belong to a union that represents the bargaining unit or require that any employees pay agency or "fair share" fees.
The bill amends the state law that covers collective bargaining for public employees. The last time the Republican General Assembly tried to weaken the collective bargaining law, in 2011, it was repealed in a citizen referendum backed by Democrats and labor unions.
This bill will get a hearing in the GOP-controlled House, but similar efforts have stalled in past years.
It is already illegal under Ohio law to force someone to join a union if they don't want to, so that portion of the bill is unnecessary, except to help make it look like a pro-employee rights bill. This bill really boils down to a "fair share fee" bill: you can't be forced to pay fees to a union in lieu of dues if you don't join.
The main sponsor of House Bill 53 is Rep. John Becker, a Clermont County Republican. The other two co-sponsors from northwest Ohio, both Republicans, are Rep. Craig Riedel of Defiance and Wes Goodman of Cardington, whose 87th District includes a portion of Seneca County.
Becker spins the bill as a boon to the unions: "Under this bill unions are protected from representing employees who choose to opt out, allowing them to become stronger because those who remain will be the ones who are committed to their cause."
The Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO sees it differently: "'Right to work' is a complete sham, a lie, and its only purpose is to destroy unions and collective bargaining."
Although this bill applies only to public sector unions, you can count on other bills being introduced that will apply to all employees. Bills have been introduced in the past that would either put the question on a statewide ballot or amend state law.
Twenty-eight states have passed laws eliminating union membership or fair share requirements, including neighboring Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky.