First it was Wisconsin. Then Indiana. Then Michigan of all places. Right-to-work legislation is being considered, and in some cases passed, by legislatures throughout the Rust Belt. Given that trend, and the economic benefits to businesses and the state that follow with right-to-work, it was only a matter of time before regional pressures led the Ohio legislature to consider the idea notwithstanding the previously failed attempts on Senate Bill 5.
Just recently, two Ohio House of Representatives members, Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Ron Maag (R-Lebanon), announced they are sponsoring bills that would enact right-to-work for both the public and private sectors in Ohio. There are two proposed avenues: by statute or by a constitutional amendment engraining right-to-work in the Ohio Constitution. The legislation encompasses a basic right-to-work provision and only prevents an employee from being forced to join a union or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
However, just the other day, all of this became a moot point—for now. Ohio Senate President Keith Faber announced that right-to-work legislation will not be taken up by the Ohio Senate. This effectively makes right-to-work “dead in the water.” It also has been reported that Governor John Kasich was not particularly interested in the idea. As of April 8, 2013, the New York Times’ expert pollster and election predictor Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog, places Governor Kasich in “better shape” for his reelection in 2014. According to Mr. Silver, surveys are showing Governor Kasich currently has a 50% job approval rating. This compares to a job approval rating in the 30s for Kasich in 2011 when Senate Bill 5 was in the forefront. For Kasich, he has nothing to gain (and everything to lose) by forcing a controversial issue and reigniting the firestorm.
But the question may be one of timing. Governor Kasich is up for reelection in 2014. Republicans are also trying to hold the U.S. House of Representatives and make gains in the U.S. Senate. Motivating unions to campaign with their union dues and get-out-the-vote efforts in 2014 by pushing right-to-work does not seem like the wisest course of action for Republicans in Ohio. It would heavily motivate the Democratic Party and Democratic voters. This was explicitly acknowledged by Ohio Senate President Faber, when he said “[t]he only purpose this discussion serves right now is to generate a bunch of breathless fundraising appeals from the Ohio Democratic Party.”
So, for now, right-to-work is on the minds of Ohio’s Republicans, but the expectation is no legislation will be forthcoming. Expect the issue to die out in time for the 2014 election, but then it may rear its head once again in 2015. If right-to-work can be enacted in Michigan, it can certainly be enacted in Ohio.