COLUMBUS, Ohio – Democrat State Representatives Jeff Crossman from Parma and Lisa Sobecki from Toledo held a news conference Thursday morning announcing legislative efforts to support union members while they strike.
A bill will be introduced that would grant union members access to unemployment benefits while they strike, something not currently allowed in Ohio but is allowed in New York and New Jersey according to Crossman.
The other measure would urge the Federal government to change rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to allow striking union members to receive the benefit, current federal law prohibits this.
According to Crossman and Sobecki, multi-billion dollar corporations have an unfair advantage over workers choosing to strike because they can simply afford to wait the workers out without feeling the financial pinch personally. Meanwhile, families of striking union members can find it difficult to provide food for children and spouses, or to pay bills.
Some say union members need to own that choice, like State Representative Craig Riedel. He released this statement in response to the announcement about opening up access to unemployment to striking laborers:
“To think that the government should come in and provide unemployment benefits as a result of a voluntary decision to go on strike is not something that I would support. Life is all about choices. I sympathize with their situation but they made the decision to go on strike.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also used the term “sympathize” when responding to if striking union members should get help from the government during the strike.
“We are certainly sympathetic to them, what that means I’m not quite sure, we have some indication that the GM strike may be getting settled so we certainly, certainly hope that’s occurring, but I haven’t really looked at the issue, so I don’t frankly have an opinion about it,” said DeWine.
Regardless if a deal is reached between striking workers and General Motors, the proposed legislation would be beneficial for all union members across Ohio.
It would also be retroactive to the beginning of this year, and go into effect immediately if the Governor signed it provided the emergency clause in it stays intact.
The likelihood of the legislation actually going anywhere is unknown, but there aren’t that many reasons to think it will.
The Republican controlled Statehouse hasn’t even given a bill to help the workers at the Lordstown plant a hearing, and it wasn’t that long ago they passed Senate Bill 5 only to have the people strike it down at the ballot box.
Still, Sobecki says this is a new General Assembly and points out that Speaker of the House Larry Householder is in the position he has now with a great deal of Organized Labor’s help.
Holding onto that position, should someone challenge him for it, may continue to require that support depending on how the General Election goes in 2020.
But even if labor leans on Householder to get the bill hearings, there is no guarantee it will get the votes it would need to pass; or go anywhere in the Senate, and then the Governor.
So, if this is just an exercise futile, what is the point of it all? Is it a rhetorical attempt to draw attention to a problem that perhaps someday will get addressed? It wouldn’t be the first time that has occurred with legislation.
Is it simply a political maneuver to draw attention to a divide between representatives and some of the people they represent? Who knows.
What we do know is this.
When a union decides to strike it’s because it doesn’t agree with the deal its being presented; we know workers receive no compensation while negotiations for better pay, safer work environments, or better benefits are under way; we know the company loses profits as a result of the work stoppage.
According to Crossman, allowing striking union members to at the very least get a portion of their pay from unemployment so they can put food in the bellies of their children, spouses, and selves, would be a benefit to the workers, the communities they live in.
Crossman says, the companies they work for pay into unemployment funds and the workers should be able to draw on those funds in times of emergency.