The Columbus Dispatch reported on February 14, 2012 that a majority of Ohioans responding to a recent poll believe Ohio should become a "right-to-work" state. In most respects, federal law, not state law, governs collective bargaining and union membership. But, "right-to-work" legislation is one area in which states have successfully regulated union rights. Many collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s) require that an employee become at least a "financial member" of a union – meaning the employee must pay regular union dues, fees, and assessments in order to keep his or her job. In a "right-to-work" state, it is illegal for a CBA to mandate that employees join or financially support a labor union. Currently, 23 states have "right-to-work" laws.
Of course, "right-to-work" laws are strenuously opposed by organized labor. Unions feel that those laws make it too easy for employees to be in a group covered by a union contract but, at the same time, refuse to pay union dues to support the union’s efforts. For example, presume a union wins a secret-ballot election by a majority vote to represent a group of workers. The union has to represent the interests of all the workers, even those who did not vote for or who do not join the union. Unions argue it is unfair if some of the workers are able to be represented without having to pay union dues. By contrast, supporters of "right-to-work" legislation consider it unfair in any circumstance for an employee to be forced to support a union, financially or otherwise, as a condition of keeping his or her job.
In this poll, participants were asked this question: "Indiana recently became a ‘right-to-work’ state, meaning that workers can no longer be required to join a union or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Do you think that Ohio should become a ‘right-to-work’ state or don’t you think so?" Fifty-four percent (54%) of those polled said that Ohio should become a "right-to-work" state. Not surprisingly, 77% of Republicans polled supported, while 61% of Democrats polled opposed "right-to-work."
This apparent support for a "right-to-work" law in Ohio may surprise some, given that in November an overwhelming majority of Ohio voters rejected Senate Bill 5, a law which many saw as anti-union legislation. But, keep in mind that the Senate Bill 5 vote in November came after months of extensive media coverage of the issues and campaigning by union-represented firefighters, police, and school teachers opposing the Bill. Rest assured that if "right-to-work" legislation gains traction in the Ohio legislature, it will be the subject of much media attention as well as vocal support and opposition from interested parties.