by Félix Pérez
At the end of the day, lawmakers in Ohio and Maine said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ They agreed with workers that misleading, so-called right-to-work legislative proposals are an assault on workers’ ability to have a voice in the classroom and in the workplace.
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Wednesday, just hours after a right-to-work bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, the state’s Senate leadership said it would not take up the contentious legislation because it lacked support. Last week, right to work met a similar fate in Maine, where the Senate voted, 21-13, to kill the bill.
Educators and other workers have actively opposed the legislation. They argue that it is a thinly disguised attack on working families by corporate special interests and anti-union groups. Educators say so-called right to work hurts students, educators and public schools because it lessens educators’ leverage to advocate for student learning conditions and educator working conditions. Right-to-work opponents say right to work results in less job security, lower wages and fewer benefits while benefiting corporate special interests.
The Ohio Education Association points out that right-to-work laws diminish the professional voices of those we trust to take care of our children, students and families, such as teachers and nurses. In Ohio, according to OEA, teachers working in non-union charter schools receive annual salaries that are about $16,000 less than those paid to traditional public school teachers.
Ohio educators and workers described the bill — which is not officially dead — as a continuation of Governor John Kasich’s ill-fated attempt in 2011 (SB 5) to strip public employees of their right to advocate for students, patients and their communities through collective bargaining. In a shot heard across the country, voters repealed the law, 61% to 39%.
In Maine, legislators, for the second year in a row, made clear that right to work is not welcome there. “Right to work was a bad idea in 1948 when Maine voters rejected it by a 2 to 1 margin, and it’s still a bad idea 60 years later,” Senator John Patrick said in a statement. “I want a Maine that’s progressive not regressive – a Maine that stands up for its workers.”
Maine followed the lead of New Hampshire, where, in February, the House killed right-to-work legislation.
In Missouri, meanwhile, state legislators are debating whether to adopt a right-to-work law written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national organization of corporate representatives and right-wing state legislators who convene behind closed doors to write model legislation for state elected officials to carry back to their states.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has promised to veto the bill if it passes.
Educators in right-to-work states are familiar with the negative consequences right-to-work laws have on public education. In some cases, it means not having the collective power to push back against overcrowded classrooms. In other instances, educators are forced to accept year-to-year contracts, part-time status and fewer or no benefits. States with right-to-work laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education.