With the election of President Joe Biden and a pro-worker Congress, the AFL-CIO is aggressively advancing a Workers First agenda which includes the PRO Act and several key areas that emphasizes the dignity of work and building back better with union jobs.
The Ohio AFL-CIO followed suit and has adopted an Ohio-specific “Workers First” agenda that the federation will be working on in the Ohio General Assembly over the next two years.
As the essential nature of our workforce and unions has been on display during the pandemic, Union favorability among Americans is at a near all-time high. Our Workers First agenda will focus on six key areas that invest in workers and rebuilds our economy from the middle class out. Our 2021-22 Legislative Agenda is outlined below and can be downloaded in a PDF here
The Pandemic and Worker Safety
The most immediate challenge is to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control and extend economic support, such as unemployment benefits, hazard pay and rent/mortgage assistance to Ohioans in need. For starters, all workers should be guaranteed access to free vaccines, rapid testing and medical care. It is imperative that COVID-19 and other deadly contagions are deemed an occupational disease and that infected workers are subject to receive injured workers benefits. We must ensure that OSHA is properly staffed, CDC guidelines are adhered to and that there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment. It is also vitally important to ensure paid sick leave, paid family leave and childcare for all workers.
Jobs and the Economy
The pandemic has highlighted the essential nature and value of our workforce, and policies must be implemented that reward these vital contributions and that create new and meaningful job opportunities. Major public investment must be made to rebuild our aging infrastructure,
support manufacturing growth and our traditional energy sectors while seizing opportunities in the new energy economy.
Raising the minimum wage, protecting call center jobs from outsourcing, cracking down on wage theft and the misclassification of workers is paramount. Continuing to support a diversified energy portfolio that includes traditional jobs and sources while ensuring that investments made in climate-based infrastructure are done with union-based principles, focused on revitalizing struggling industrial and coal-based communities is vital. Strengthening worker rights and prioritizing prevailing wages, project labor agreements, and “Buy American” provisions are urgently needed.
Additionally, it is essential that policymakers have a better understanding of foreign competition and to utilize this intelligence to advance Ohio’s interests in a global economy. Creating a state Import/Export Office to monitor and report on goods/products/services that come into Ohio from abroad compared to what we are exporting globally is a strategic investment in Ohio’s future.
Racism and Social Justice
The racial justice crisis is directly connected to the ongoing public health and economic crises which deserves action from all levels of government. This is a labor issue because it is a public health issue and a workplace issue. All state, county and municipal elected leaders are called on to measure policy proposals against structural racial equity issues in jobs, health care, criminal justice and policing. It is time to reach another level in the ongoing pursuit for racial harmony and a more perfect union.
As part of Ohio’s ongoing effort to attract the best and brightest workers from around the world, we need to update the Ohio Civil Rights law to include protections for the LGBTQ community to those already protected in housing, employment and the public sphere. This is important to the movement because even though we can, and often do, negotiate these policies into our contracts as it relates to employment discrimination, working families deserve the same protections as everyone else once they leave the workplace.
Education Equity and Accountability
Twenty years after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the state’s funding formula as unconstitutional, the legislature must pass an equitable funding plan. The General Assembly should continue the work of the Ohio House last session by passing the bi-partisan Fair School Funding Plan (House Bill 1). This plan, which passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority enacts a student-centered school funding formula that is equitable, adequate, predictable, and ensures that all students have the resources to succeed regardless of where they live or their family’s income.
Further, the expansion of charter schools and private school vouchers is unsustainable and continues to syphon critical funds from our public schools. The state must reverse course and reduce the number of available vouchers and finally begin directly funding these programs for the sake of transparency. Finally, charter schools should receive the same scrutiny and be held to the same standards as our public schools.
Tax Fairness and Public Services
The pandemic has exposed inequities that call on elected leaders to install fairness in tax policy that prioritizes the need to support our public services and workforce. Corporations have seen a steady reduction in state taxes since 2005 yet they rely on the same roads and bridges, broadband infrastructure, water and sewer facilities, safety services, and public transportation as the workers who have steadily seen their wages stagnate and their share of the tax burden increase. Policies must reflect the importance that a well-educated, happy and healthy workforce plays in putting forth the labor that helps business grow, prosper, and profit.
It is imperative that Ohio invests in providing access to quality, affordable childcare and early education opportunities, expand accessibility to high speed broadband to all corners of the state, and make sure public infrastructure is safe for our communities and environment. The pandemic has exposed the consequences of failing to adequately fund public services through reductions in the local government fund and decreased investment in public health, transportation, infrastructure, and social services. Ohio has witnessed that at-risk communities suffer most in times of crisis from underfunded public services. In order to make the needed investments in our public services, the local government fund should be reinstated to former levels, special interest tax loopholes should be closed, Ohio’s woefully low severance tax on the oil and gas industry should be increased, and the Corporate Profits tax should be reestablished.
Fair Legislative Districts
The courts, good government organizations, the media and even political leaders in the majority recognize that the rigged legislative districts that Ohioans have endured for going on ten years must change dramatically. It is essential that the voter-backed rules and the spirit of that bi-partisan effort for how the state legislative and congressional maps are drawn become realized. What we know is that unions and policies that support working people, as we are reminded on the tenth anniversary of voters overturning Senate Bill 5, are good for all Ohioans and will thrive if lawmakers are running and serving in competitive, geographically sensible districts. It is absolutely imperative that the voters’ overwhelming call to end the era of rigged map making emerges in bipartisan fashion.