July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Brunswick council to tackle ‘right-to-work’

BRUNSWICK — Council members are looking to send a message to state lawmakers, setting up the potential for another battle with Brunswick business leaders.

At tonight’s meeting, Council is expected to hear a resolution that would formally oppose “right-to-work” laws and the “workplace freedom amendment” on behalf of working families and the economy of the city of Brunswick.

The workplace freedom amendment proposed in petitions being circulated throughout the state would make it illegal for workers to be required to join unions as a condition of employment and would ban the practice of taking union dues directly out of paychecks.

The resolution was introduced by Councilman Brian Ousley, at large, who drafted the resolution when state lawmakers were considering instituting a right-to-work law in Ohio last month.

The proposal in the legislation was immediately killed by the Republican leadership in the General Assembly. But Ousley said he wants to send the message to Columbus as soon as possible.

“I’m bringing this forward event though the Senate downstate has tabled it, because I believe it’s going to come back,” said Ousley, a 26-year member of the laborers local 310.

In introducing his resolution, Ousley pointed to evidence from other states that show workers in right-to-work states make $5,000 less than workers in states that don’t have right-to-work laws.

“The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics states six out of 10 states with the highest unemployment have right-to-work laws in place,” Ousley said. “In addition, they state the right-to-work states have 51 percent higher workplace fatalities.”

Ousley was supported by all members of Council, with the exception of Councilman Ron Falconi, at large.

Falconi said that while he supports union rights, he doesn’t think the right-to-work law would have the negative impact outlined by Ousley.

“From what I understand it’s about whether or not someone wants to pay union dues in order to work somewhere,” said Falconi, who is running unopposed for mayor in November.

Ousley argued union dues was akin to lawyers paying dues to belong to the bar association or business owners paying Chamber of Commerce dues to get advocates on their side.

“To belong to all of these things you have to pay dues to be represented,” Ousley said. “I feel like this is about busting up unions, they’re trying to crush unions and the middle class.”

Council Chair Pat Hanek, at large, cut off the debate between Falconi and Ousley, deeming it a “philosophical argument.”

The committee agreed to move the legislation to Council as a whole to debate and decide by a vote of 6-1 with Falconi casting a “nay” vote.

The resolution could set up a debate between Council leaders and the Brunswick business community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported right-to-work efforts throughout the country and so have other regional and local chamber organizations.

In February, the Council voted 6-1 to support of a resolution protesting state laws regarding the lack of local control over oil and natural gas drilling. Falconi was the lone dissenting vote on that resolution.

Falconi got support from local business owners and chamber members who spoke out against the ordinance over concerns it would make Brunswick look anti-business, at a time when efforts are under way to attract more business and development to the area.

The right to work resolution has caught the attention of the Brunswick Area Chamber of Commerce.

Melissa Krebs, executive director of the Chamber said they heard about the resolution and have chamber board members are reviewing the resolution.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.