By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog
Citing Gov. John Kasich’s opposition, some legislators have given up on making Ohio a right-to-work state. But one House representative is optimistic he can succeed.
“Since (2011), Michigan has become a right-to-work state,” Brinkman said. “So has Wisconsin and I know there’s been activity in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. The landscape has changed in a positive way for a right-to-work bill. We have neighboring states that are doing it so I feel pretty good about it.”
Matt Mayer, president of the free-market think tank Opportunity Ohio, isn’t so sure.
“Right to work has been dead since Gov. John Kasich said he didn’t support it and encouraged donors not to help fund a ballot initiative,” he said. “That’s the reality. He’s essentially shut down the process.”
In 2011, unions and Democrats successfully repealed Senate Bill 5, a package of various public-sector labor reforms that included right-to-work language. S.B. 5 was passed by Republicans in the Legislature and Kasich signed the bill into law.
After the repeal, Ohioans for Workplace Freedom began the process to amend the Ohio Constitution through a ballot initiative, hoping to have right-to-work language before voters at the November 2014 election.
The amendment said no worker would have to join a union or pay dues to keep a job, but the group failed to collect enough signatures and was the amendment was never placed before voters.
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Brinkman doesn’t deny Kasich’s opposition is an issue, but compares that to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s position on a right-to-work bill.
“Snyder, up until less than 16 days before it passed, said it wasn’t on his agenda,” Brinkman said. “The switcheroo in Michigan was phenomenal. Changes happen quickly.”
But Mayer says that as long as Kasich is in office, “no one is even going to get a bill out of committee.”
“With Kasich getting stronger in the polls nationally, (legislators) don’t want to get crosswise to the guy who could become president, or vice president,” he said. “They’re thinking, ‘If I cross him, I know the way he works.’”
So Mayer decided to submit right-to-work proposals to the state’s Constitutional Modernization Commission, which is in the process of reviewing the constitution and making recommendations for changes and updates. The committee must complete its work by Jan. 1, 2018.
The first proposal would prohibit mandatory union membership or dues. The second would prohibit the use of public funds to “assist a labor organization in collecting dues or service fees from wages of public employees.”
“It’s been five months and not even a committee hearing or communication about the matter, since we got the notice that the committee received the submissions,” Mayer said. “They’re more interested in extending term limits, which is all about increasing the political class’ power over Ohio.”
Mayer no longer expects his proposals to gain approval. Recommended changes require a two-thirds vote from the 15 Republicans and 15 Democrats on the commission.
When the proposals were brought to the commission, Former House Speaker JoAnn Davidson, who serves on the commission, said she believed the commission’s charge was to review current sections of the constitution, and not to add completely new ones, according to the minutes of the commission’s coordinating committee.
Mayer said he believes Davidson won’t let his proposals go forward because Kasich doesn’t want them to go forward.
Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, doesn’t think Kasich is “hostile” to the right-to-work concept.
“But we also don’t have any impression that he’s enthusiastic about it, and to pass it and defend it requires the enthusiastic support of a governor,” he added.
“I hear that,” he said. “It’s politics. But the bottom line is that they can’t sign something that we don’t introduce first, pass first and then get to their desk.”
Kasich did not respond to a request to comment.