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Group gears up for new battle

Published: Tue, March 13, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The organization that led the successful November 2011 campaign to overturn a state law restricting some collective-bargaining rights for public employees is gearing up for another battle.

This time, We Are Ohio plans to fight a right-to-work constitutional amendment that could be on this November’s ballot.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, the organization behind the right-to-work proposal, needs at least 385,253 valid signatures — 10 percent of the number of votes in the 2010 gubernatorial election — on petitions to the secretary of state’s office by a July 4 deadline.

Currently, state law requires those in unionized workplaces to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Ohioans for Workplace Freedom wants an amendment that no longer would require people to become members of or remain in a union, and not be required to pay union dues or other fees as a condition of employment.

Right-to-work is an attack on middle-class and working-class families, said Jim Graham, president of the United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the Lordstown General Motors complex.

Graham and volunteer members of We Are Ohio spoke Monday at the Lemon Grove Cafe in downtown Youngstown in opposition to the potential constitutional amendment.

“They’re trying to disrupt the collective-bargaining process in our state,” Graham said. “If they’re successful, it will decimate the middle class.”

The Workplace Freedom group’s Chris Littleton said to understand the economic impacts of compulsory union membership you have to look beyond average wages. He said cost-of-living also must be taken into consideration when making state-to-state comparisons.

“The only reason we’re doing this ... is because it’s the right policy for the state of Ohio,” he said. “Everybody resonates with the idea that workers should get to choose whether they join a union. They should have that freedom.”

“We won once against these politicians who tried to take away collective- bargaining rights,” said Helen Youngblood, a case manager at the Youngs-town office of Ohio Job and Family Services and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2001.

And it will happen again if right-to-work is on the ballot, she said.

We Are Ohio, which has been inactive since the November 2011 repeal of Senate Bill 5, had press conferences Monday in six cities, including Youngstown. The group also opposes House Bill 194, which makes changes to the state’s voting laws.

Mike Patrick, who heads the IT firm Patrick Solutions in Grandview, was the first to sign We Are Ohio’s petition last year. He said Monday he opposes the right-to-work amendment because he believes it will undermine Ohio’s middle-class standard of living — and that will drive businesses away.

Contributor: Associated Press

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