Poll: 75% of Ohioans Disapprove of Using Taxpayer Funds to Collect Union Dues

Jason Hart, Watchdog.org labor reporter, recently published a story that highlights a new poll from the think tank Opportunity Ohio on Ohioans’ opinions of labor unions.

Ohioans, generally, have a positive opinion of unions. When asked “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of labor unions,” 49 percent had a favorable opinion to 34 percent unfavorable.

While the poll reveals that Ohioans support labor unions, they do not support government granted union special privileges.

A majority of Ohio voters did not think the law should grant unions the privilege to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment with 52 percent of Ohioans supporting Ohio becoming a right-to-work state.

The result is no surprise since a number of recent polls show that Americans support right-to-work policy by a 3-1 margin. In addition, as the Competitive Enterprise Institute report, “An Interstate Analysis of Right to Work,” finds, Ohio workers are losing income from not having a right-to-work law. According to the study, the estimated per capita income loss associated with not having a right-to-work law in Ohio is $3,260.

Hart reports on another union privilege that is not very popular in Ohio, “asked whether ‘labor unions representing government workers should be permitted to use taxpayer-funded resources to collect union dues,’ 75 percent of Ohioans polled said they should not.”

Again, it should not be shocking that Ohio citizens would prefer tax dollars to support actual public work, not the private interests of unions. And as I’ve previously noted, most states contain a constitutional provision that already ensures public resources are spent on public purposes by banning the government from spending tax dollars on solely private interests. For example, Ohio Const. art. VIII §§ 4, 6, prohibits state and local governments from giving away the public’s money to any individual, corporation or association.

Another question the Opportunity Ohio poll should have asked is whether Ohioans should pay the salaries of government employees when they are working exclusively for their union and not on the public job that they were hired to do. Sadly, this practice, known as union release time, is embedded in numerous government union collective bargaining agreements in Ohio.

According to public records requests, the Ohio Industrial Commission, from Aug. 1, 2012, to Aug. 1, 2013, granted 171.3 hours of release time at a cost of $3,541.03; the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation granted 422.90 hours of release time at a cost of $14,075.66 in 2012; the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency granted 772.40 hours of release time at a cost of $25,989.05 (see more union release time records, here).

Similar to using tax dollars to deduct union dues, release time should be prohibited by Ohio’s constitution.

Ohio legislators should take note of the Opportunity Ohio poll and reduce the amount of special privileges granted to unions. A good place to start would be to eliminate the use of tax dollars to support the private interests of labor unions, which includes eliminating release time and using taxpayer resources to collect government union dues.

For more suggestions on how to reform state public-sector unions, check out an op-ed I wrote for RealClearPolicy.com here.