The legislature went on holiday recess amid a flurry of activity. The House and Senate held several committee hearings in order to pass or position bills heading into the New Year. On the positive side, the Ohio House passed House Bill 98, a bill that would allow building trades and apprenticeship programs to partner with school districts in order to advise high school students about career opportunities that exist in construction and manufacturing.
The legislature is giving the appearance of taking Congressional Redistricting seriously by forming a Joint Panel to hear from policy experts on the subject. Although the state federation remains skeptical, a bipartisan work group was formed to come up with a proposal that could be placed on the Primary ballot in May of 2018.
Several bills harmful to working families received hearings as the Holiday break approached. House Bill 298, a bill that will severely limit what benefits public sector unions can bargain over received sponsor testimony. Also receiving hearings in the final days were two ill-conceived Workers Compensation bills, HB 268 and HB 269. The state federation will continue to monitor these bills in the New Year and mobilize membership as necessary. The Ohio House passed HB 380, legislation that prohibits Undocumented Workers from receiving Workers Compensation. The state federation provided opposition testimony to this Republican backed bill, as it will be a catalyst for unscrupulous employers to recruit and exploit undocumented workers and maintain unsafe work places without consequence.
The House Transportation Committee has been holding monthly briefings on Autonomous Vehicle technology. At a hearing earlier this month, members of the Transport Workers Union showed up in droves to talk to legislators and the press about possible job loss and the weakening of our communities as this driverless technology advances. We will continue to watch the development of state policy around driverless transportation to make sure that workers and our local communities do not suffer the consequences.
In the ongoing drama surrounding Unemployment Compensation Reform, House Bill 382 remains in Committee as the sponsor searches for support. Should the bill advance in its current form, the State Federation plans to offer opposition. Laid off workers did not cause the trust fund to go broke and their benefits should not be cut or eligibility diminished as a result of employers short changing the system.
Lastly, right before Christmas, GOP Representative John Becker sent around a co-sponsor request to his colleagues for six union-busting proposals seeking ballot placement as Constitutional Amendments. These bills come straight from the ALEC/Koch Brothers playbook to continue their assault on unions and working people. If these proposals were to pass, hard-working Ohioans from all corners of the state would be negatively impacted. Workers in more than 100 occupations, especially in the construction, transportation, manufacturing, communications, energy, retail, public and safety service sectors will be hurt. These proposals are nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to silence workers on the job, strip them of their political voice, and slash wages at a time when they have been stagnant for far too long.
Desperate to show they can pass legislation, Republicans in Congress sunk to a new low by rushing through a tax bill that is a give-away to big business and the super wealthy leaving future generations to deal with the enormous debt left behind. The will of the American people and the democratic process were of no concern as this partisan bill advanced without a single hearing. Now, to pay for the more than $1 trillion dollars in corporate tax breaks Speaker Ryan is saying he plans to cut Social Security and Medicare next year.
Ohio Republicans in Congress went along with this sham repeating the party line that by giving large corporations and the well-off enormous tax breaks it will “trickle down” to workers in higher wages. If they wanted to ensure this would happen they would have adopted a Democratic proposal to mandate worker raises as a percentage of the corporate tax savings. They didn’t and we will be looking and asking every month “where’s our raises you promised?”
This unfair and unwise tax scheme not only doesn’t deliver for working people but it incentivizes through tax breaks further outsourcing of our work. Republicans vowed in the last election to represent the forgotten men and women in our economy. Why weren’t they listening then as the American people were speaking out and overwhelmingly opposed to this bill? It seems that President Trump and Republicans in Congress have forgotten about us all over again.
Supreme Court:Union “Fair Share” Fee Under Attack
Now that Donald Trump has secured his person on the U.S. Supreme Court another attempt to deny public sector unions its “fair share” fee for service is being heard — this time it’s Janus v. AFSCME. If this sounds familiar it’s because just last year the Supreme Court heard the Friedrich v. The California Teachers whereby they ruled 4-4, upholding the lower court’s decision supporting “fair share” fees.
This marks the third time the Supreme Court will take up such a case, originating in a 1977 unanimous decision in favor of the union in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. It is clear that Janus is part of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a “mortal blow” and “defund and defang” unions.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders effectively summarized the matter by stating, “This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.”
Oral arguments on this case are set to be heard beginning Feb 26, 2018.