Testimonies of four UFCW members before the Insurance, Commerce, and Labor committee, 17 February 2011
Testimony of Mr. Don Watkins on SB 5
I want to thank Chairman Bacon and Ranking Minority Member Sen. Schiavoni for giving me a few minutes to speak here today on Senate Bill 5. I have read the articles about this bill, talked to my friends about it that would be affected, and cannot see how this bill will help create jobs in our state.
I have worked at Chief Supermarket in Coldwater, Ohio for 16 years. I am the meat cutter in the store and I’ve been cutting meat for 36 years.
On a regular basis, I cut meat for the local fire department. I know that if our firemen had to take a cut in wages because they no longer had collective bargaining rights, they would not be able to shop at Chiefs — which is a locally owned store. They would have to drive 10 miles out of town to go to a discount store like Wal-Mart or Dollar General and, then people’s money would be going to an out-of-state corporation.
If our firemen or other public employees like teachers make less money or lose their jobs, it is less likely that their dollars will stay in our community and create jobs in Coldwater. This effect could even cause a store like Chiefs to lay off workers or close. And, if it closes there would only be a carry-out store in Coldwater to serve the community.
Before working in Coldwater, I worked for a non-union store and I was not able to provide my family with quality of life they have now.
I am a widower, and my wife passed away from cancer. My son attends the University of Toledo. If I was still working at a non-union store, I know I would not be able to afford to send my son to college as a single parent.
My son is studying criminal justice and plans on serving our state by going into Law Enforcement. We all know that those who protect us daily need someone standing up for them to keep them safe on their jobs. I want to make sure that my son has the same type of representation that police officers currently have to keep him safe while he is out protecting Ohioans.
As far as I can tell, this bill does nothing that will help Ohioans and will prevent more people from achieving the America Dream of giving their family a better life.
I think we all know that people don’t become a teacher, police officer, or fireman to get rich. These are professions that serve the public and people make a sacrifice by choosing those careers.
Lastly, my friend’s wife works at the local unemployment office. And, I know that public employees have made sacrifices over the past several years to help out with the state budget issues. They have taken furlough days and pay freezes. And, the furlough days amount to a pay cut. My friend’s wife is scared to death that if this bill passes she is going to lose her job. She is very passionate about her work — she helps those who have hit rock bottom and need a job.
If you pass this bill, you will only be adding to the Ohio unemployment line and you will be reducing the help for those job searching.
Ohio needs solutions to our jobs problems. But, SB 5 is not a solution. It will sacrifice middle class Ohioans and out-of-state corporations will be the ones to gain.
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Testimony of Ms. Bonnie France on SB 5
I want to thank Chairman Bacon and all of you for giving me a few moments to speak today on Senate Bill 5. I have never given testimony like this before and I am a little bit nervous. But, I feel like the issue of collective bargaining rights is too important to sit on the sidelines.
And, the one thing I keep wondering about is that this state is hurting for jobs and I don’t understand why the Honorable Senator Jones would introduce a bill that will kill Ohio jobs.
I grew up in Toledo and my mother and father both worked. My parents had union representation to keep them safe at their jobs. To be quite honest, I didn’t know that some workers didn’t have unions and the rights unions fought for, like employer provided health care until I moved.
I have been a Kroger employee for 38 years and I work at the Englewood store just north of Dayton. I work in the meat service department and I get to interact with Kroger customers on a daily basis. These are people who choose to shop at an Ohio-based store to keep their dollars in Ohio communities.
One of my customers, a teacher, was recently laid off. She is bilingual and could not find another job in our community, so she had to move to Arizona. I keep thinking of the other qualified teachers who could lose their jobs if they no longer had collective bargaining rights and what a sacrifice that would be for our children’s education, and SB 5 could cause some qualified teachers to leave the profession altogether.
I am a single mother and I raised my daughter who now has two children of her own. I know that I would not have been able to provide my daughter with the same opportunities she had growing up if I had not worked at a union store that enabled me to make a living wage. I also know my daughter benefited from a strong public education that was provided to her by dedicated teachers.
Now my daughter is a small-business owner and she provides jobs in her local community. She would not have been able to start this small business without my support.
At my job one of my most important concerns is safety. And, I realize that at times people are tempted to cut corners to save the bottom line. But, this actually just increases costs in the long run if people get hurt and cannot work. If someone is hurt he or she has to be paid for disability and the business will spend more money to train someone else to do the job.
Recently, I had to bring up a safety issue to management at my store. We have a piece of equipment called a scissor jack that enables us to hang store displays. OSHA says that, anything that goes over 5 feet, people need a safety harness and we didn’t have one at my store. Because of my union representation I felt safe to speak up about this safety issue to management and this enabled me to prevent a potential accident.
Now, I understand that the state has budget issues and we need jobs, but taking away collective bargaining rights that enable people to have a decent wage, work place safety and a voice is not the solution. This bill is only going to put Ohio further in the red. If people make less, they will spend less and, people will move out of state to find better opportunities.
I hope that all of you can work together to find common ground and better solutions for our state because we need all your energy and innovative ideas.
Thank you for your time.
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Testimony of Mr. Doug Correll on SB 5
Thank you for giving me time to speak today to your committee on Senate Bill 5. I am very concerned about the effect this bill could have on our state and what it will do to the people who keep our communities safe, like our police and firemen.
Collective bargaining rights are a way to keep those who protect us safe at their jobs.
I have worked at Kroger for 35 years in Delhi, Ohio. And, I am proud to work for an Ohio-based company. My Dad worked at Kroger for 34 years and raised 9 kids and because of his job was able to send some of them to college or trade school — so that they could have a secure middle-class life.
I am the fuel manager at our store and I am responsible for safety at our fueling station as well as writing orders, our staff schedule, and I keep track of all the banking for our station.
I am a proud member and steward for my union, the United Food and Commercial Workers. And, I take my responsibility as a steward seriously to make sure that agreements and safety standards are upheld to keep workers safe on the job and to make sure they are not discriminated against. This creates a better work place and helps employers reduce turnover which can increase costs by having to constantly train new, inexperienced people.
Now, not all companies care about experience. My neighbor used to work at Frish’s, which is a restaurant chain down in SW Ohio. She worked there for 18 years. One time she forgot to add a coffee onto a customer’s bill and she was accused of stealing and fired from her job. After 18 years of experience and dedication to her job she was let go because of an innocent mistake. If she had representation that issue could have been resolved and she could still be in her job.
If public employees lose their collective bargaining rights how many could be let go because of a simple mistake? Then, their replacements will have to be trained and this could end up costing the Ohio taxpayer more in the long run.
I recently got married in May. And, my wife’s daughter lost custody of her two children. My wife and I have custody of a 2 and a 6 year old. There is no way that without my job benefits I would have been able to take in two young children. If my wife and I would not have been able to take them in, they would have gone into foster care and that would have been a greater cost to the state.
I can only imagine that there are others who serve our communities as firefighters, policemen and education employees that have similar stories.
I want to leave you with one more example as to why collective bargaining rights are important and that getting rid of them is not a solution for our state’s budget and job problems.
My stepbrother is a Cincinnati fireman and he was injured on the job. The department had a brand new ladder truck and it wasn’t properly tested. He was at the tiller wheel and the driver went over a curb and he hit his head on the ceiling and messed up his entire spine. To date, my stepbrother has had 5 spinal operations and he cannot work. But, because of his union representation he is on disability and has had health care to pay for his operations. I worry that if my stepbrother didn’t have union representation he would not have received the care he needs. Also, he could have become a burden on the medical system by not being able to pay for his medical bills, which just ends up being a greater cost to society.
I hope this committee seriously considers the potential consequences that SB 5 will have for middle-class Ohioans and Ohio businesses.
Thank you for your time today.
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Testimony of Ms. Karen Bedinghaus on SB 5
Mr. Chairman Bacon, thank you for giving me time to speak today about Senate Bill 5 and the importance of collective bargaining rights.
I have worked for the Pricehill Kroger in Cincinnati for almost 24 years. It will be 24 years on April 10th. I am a customer service manager and I get to work with all walks of life on a daily basis.
I am glad that I work a store that has union representation. I know that I would not have been able to provide for my kids and send them on to higher education without having this job.
I also made the choice to send my 4 children to parochial schools. Without a job with a living wage, there is no way that would have been a choice for my family — it would have been out of the question.
I can only imagine that if public employees lose their collective bargaining rights some of them will lose their jobs and will not be able to help their children. And, some of them could lose wages and benefits and may not be able to help their children have a better life — which is what most middle-class Americans want — to provide a better life for their children. Isn’t that the American Dream?
I have friends that belong to the Cincinnati Police Department. And, I’ve talked to them about Senate Bill 5. They are strongly against this bill. They know it will undermine their work place protection.
And these are the people that put their lives on the line daily to keep us safe. Plus, most of them have worked for the police department for at least 15 years — making it difficult for them to try to find a different type of job.
I also know that, if my friends lose their purchasing power, they are going to have to make tough choices on where they shop and may have to go to discount stores and those corporations are not based in Ohio. Kroger is an Ohio company that invests in our community.
I know you all have very tough decisions to make and that your job isn’t easy. But as you have heard from me and as I know you have heard from countless other middle class Ohioans — SB 5 is not the solution to Ohio’s problems. Thank you.
The testimonies above were first published in the UFCW blog on 17 February 2011; they are reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. For more information, visit <oh.aflcio.org/index.cfm?action=calendar>, <www.afscmecouncil8.org> and <www.facebook.com/pages/Stand-Up-For-Ohio/167952849919161>. See, also, “Ohio Labor: No on SB5!”; Dan La Botz, “A New American Workers Movement Has Begun” (MRZine, 18 February 2011); Dan La Botz, “Thousands Rally in Columbus to Stop Anti-Union Bill” (Labor Notes, 18 February 2011).
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