Get the facts on right-to-work legislation

I am a member of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and its statewide partner network, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. For two years, I have been a part of their Retirement Security campaign that seeks to protect essential programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that people like me rely on.

I am 67 years old and require continuous oxygen. I rely on my husband, a retired steelworker, to help me with basic physical tasks, to take care of our home and to live with dignity in this community that we love.

It’s for this personal reason that I joined MVOC and OOC and support events like the January ”Lobby Day.” On Jan. 23, 100 people from across the state gathered in Columbus to lobby legislators to pass Medicaid expansion, discourage so-called ”Right-to-Work” legislation, and support State Sen. Joe Schiavoni’s blighted property bill.

For our efforts, the Tribune Chronicle awarded us two ”onions.”

Our first onion was for our support of Medicaid expansion. The Tribune claims that the state of Ohio should ”opt out” of Medicaid expansion to avoid ”massive budget increases.” They insinuate that we are doing a disservice to the community we are trying to protect by supporting this expansion.

But if you look closely, 100 percent of costs for newly eligible Medicaid recipients would be covered by the federal government until 2016. Between 2016 and 2020, federal subsidies will gradually decrease to 90 percent. Currently, the federal government only covers about 63 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid costs.

Medicaid expansion will actually bring more money and jobs to our state. According to estimates by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, our state budget will gain $1.431 billion between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2022, as a result of Medicaid expansion. This will result in the creation of 31,000 jobs, $9 billion in savings to businesses and consumers, and $387 million in sales tax revenues.

This expansion will allow for additional home health care for our Valley’s aging population and will result in more qualified workers receiving better wages and benefits. Home health care has long been proven to be more affordable than nursing home care. This is a win-win for the Valley’s aging population and unemployed workforce: more aging residents staying in their homes keeping neighborhoods vibrant and more qualified home health aides working for a decent paycheck.

Gov. Kasich agrees with us: he included it in his state budget proposal on Feb. 4, 2013. We now urge our legislators to adopt this part of the budget proposal, which will provide 456,000 more Ohioans with a chance to lead healthy and productive lives.

We have been awarded another onion in response to our speaking out against right-to-work legislation. The very term right-to-work may lead people to believe that this legislation will benefit Ohio workers, but this is the very opposite of the truth.

In fact, a much more fitting name for this proposed legislation would be ”no rights at work,” because it would strip Ohio workers of their rights and their voice in matters of safety, fairness and opportunity.

Keep in mind, under Ohio law a worker is not required to join a union.

”No rights at work” laws destroy local economies by lowering wages and opportunities for all of us to thrive. According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers in states that have passed similar legislation earn an average of $1,500 less and have fewer benefits. Large corporations like Wal-mart are big boosters of this kind of legislation, and why not? ”No rights at work” is what allows these companies to keep workers below part-time, at minimum wage and with no benefits despite earning billions in profits.

Instead of providing a livable wage, Wal-mart employees must turn to state and federal programs that you and I pay for as taxpayers. This is hardly a way to build a middle class. ”No rights at work” laws are no way to build and support the middle class.

We will continue to fight for Medicaid expansion and fight against ”no rights at work.” They are important issues, for me, my family and our Valley.

For anyone who agrees with me I’d encourage to visit and click on the ”Get Involved” tab.

James is a Cortland resident.