Valley unions react to proposed Right-to-Work Bill - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Valley unions react to proposed Right-to-Work Bill

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A group of Ohio Republicans are backing a bill that would make Ohio a "right-to-work" state for workers in the private sector.

Eleven-percent of the Mahoning Valley's private sector jobs are held by union employees.

It's significantly smaller number in comparison to a time when the region was known for its thriving steel industry.

Renewed pressure in Columbus to eliminate any requirement for workers to join a union as a condition of employment comes as the nation's 28th state joins the right-to-work ranks. This month Michigan became the latest state surrounding Ohio, falling in line with Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

"We will be forced to? Maybe," Tom Humphries said, current president and CEO of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber

If Pennsylvania becomes a right-to-work state, Humphries says that would put pressure on Ohio, since the two states often compete for the same jobs.

Humphries says sometimes large-scale employers and businesses opt out of coming to Ohio because of its union requirements.

"It happens every once in a while, they're not quite always that forward with you as to why they don't come here, but we've been able to pick that up," he said.

The United Auto Workers and Western Reserve Building Trades are openly against changing the law as it stands now.   They fear it will lead to lower wages and would threaten the union structure.

"We have to end up representing people that aren't paying their fair share and that weakens the union," said Rocky DiGennnaro, president of the Western Reserve Building Trades.

DiGennaro represents more than 7,000 members across Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. He says they pay for their own training, apprenticeships, healthcare and fund their own pensions.

"If we don't like something, we can mobilize our troops to speak out against," he said. "Right to work is wrong for Ohio."

It's been six years since Ohio Republicans pushed for legislation that would limit collective bargaining rights for public union employees. Ohio Governor John Kasich has stated in past interviews with 21 News that the voters spoke when they repealed Senate Bill 5. 

Ohio Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) introduced House Bill 53 in early February, with 12 Republican co-sponsors. He tells 21 News "he's confident" the bill will clear the Ohio House, but he says it's too soon to know if it has a chance of passing through the Ohio Senate.

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