By Jeanne Melvin, Hilliard Education Association
Whether it’s the “Workplace Freedom” initiative or so-called “Right to Work,” DON’T trust it! The words “freedom” or “right” may sound really positive, but they have completely different meanings for extremist legislators than they do for Ohio’s working families. Words have power. Important decisions are made on a daily basis, simply because of the choice of words, so people need to be careful not to be misled. Let’s look at this issue and see what it really means.
Most of Ohio’s Republican legislators belong to a powerful organization of lawmakers and corporations, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that have joined the Tea Party affiliated FreedomWorks for “an aggressive grassroots state-based campaign to push back against domineering unions.” The “Workplace Freedom,” or “Right to Work,” campaign’s main goal has nothing to do with “freedom” or “rights” for American workers, but it’s targeted at destroying unions by misleading people with those positive sounding words. By minimizing the effectiveness of unions, the corporations will have employees who work more for less, and the Republican Party will have removed the union-supported political party that stands in its way, the Democratic Party.
We are all familiar with the Tea Party and its influence on today’s Republican Party, but how about ALEC? Most of us know very little about this secretive organization that has taken over the Ohio Statehouse. In 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) revealed the powerful control of the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over the legislative process in many states in the US. It published a report showing over 800 business-friendly bills that were created, endorsed, and secretly voted on by corporations and Republican lawmakers. People for the American Way, Progress Ohio, and Common Cause documented the stranglehold that ALEC has on the legislative process in Ohio and divulged the fact that 43% of its legislators belong to this corporate bill mill. There’s no need for these ALEC lawmakers to write many of their own bills, since ALEC’s corporate policy-makers create “model bills” for them to sponsor and get passed into laws. For more background on ALEC, watch this documentary by Bill Moyers.
Now that we know a little more about who we are dealing with, what are “Right to Work” laws? The Center for Media & Democracy states that, “So-called right-to-work laws undermine collective bargaining by allowing some employees a free ride when the union uses the collective power of workers to negotiate wages, raises, and other benefits with managers. Several of the anti-union laws introduced since the 2010 elections can be traced to “model” bills from ALEC, after legislators who attended the December 2010 ALEC meeting embraced the right-to-work agenda that had stalled decades earlier.” Check out the “ALEC Model Right to Work Act.”
Two years ago 2.1 million Ohioans overwhelmingly defeated Senate Bill 5, Governor Kasich’s unfair, unsafe attack on working families that would hurt all Ohioans. Even though a majority of the people of Ohio had voted against this assault on collective bargaining, the Ohio Legislature recently began hearings on three so-called “right to work” bills that would eliminate freedoms for working families, threaten workplace safety, and put profits before people. These so-called “Right to Work” initiatives, brought to the Statehouse by the same out-of-touch people who wanted SB 5, are worse than Senate Bill 5, because they would hurt every worker in Ohio. Even though the media has publicized that “top Republicans have said a package of right-to-work bills doesn’t have support,” we should continue to remain vigilant, because in Michigan, right to work legislation was passed in the dead of the night.
What will so-called “Right to Work” laws really mean? So-called “right to work” laws will give employers the “freedom” to offer their workers less pay with less benefits, because their unions’ negotiating powers will be diminished. So-called “right to work” laws will give employers the “freedom” to weaken the voices of our teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and first responders by making it harder to bargain for safe staffing levels and necessary equipment. So-called “right to work” laws will give employers the “freedom” to silence whistleblowers who are counted on to keep our workplaces safe, protect consumer goods, services, and products, and safeguard our natural resources.
Ohioans must not let themselves be fooled by the power of words. All workers must exercise the right to work together for our own “aggressive grassroots state-based campaign to push back against domineering corporations.” Only then will there truly be freedom.