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House Democrats announce plans for a bill allowing legislative staff to unionize following positive COVID-19 case in the Ohio House

Say staff health and safety is critical to ensuring the people's work gets done
July 14, 2020
Democrat Newsroom

COLUMBUS— State Representatives Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Jeffrey A. Crossman (D-Parma) announced plans on Tuesday to introduce a bill that would strike the provision in Ohio Revised Code that prohibits collective bargaining for currently exempted state employees, including legislative staff.  A co-sponsor request was sent to the entire House of Representatives on Monday. The deadline to sign on as a co-sponsor is Monday, July 20.

“All government employees, including our own legislative staff, should be able to voluntarily organize and bargain collectively for safe working conditions and better pay. As legislators, we have the ability to remove current legal barriers and stand up for worker’s rights by updating state law. In light of recent events, there is no better time than the present to do so,” said Rep. Russo.

"We believe everyone should have the right to organize and bargain collectively, especially the dedicated staff members at the Ohio House. Our staff epitomize what it means to be public servants – working tirelessly for long hours to serve the people of Ohio,"¿¿¿ said Rep. Crossman. “We now call upon our GOP colleagues to join this effort as co-sponsors on this commonsense piece of legislation to protect these hard-working professionals.”

This announcement follows repeated outreach from House Democrats to Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) calling for more transparency and clarity on health and safety protocols for members, staff and the public in the wake of a Republican staffer testing positive for COVID-19  in recent days. The Speaker reinstituted the House’s work from home policy Thursday after Democratic representatives and staff brought the incident to light.

In a letter sent to the Speaker on Friday, Democratic leadership requested: a briefing on what transpired after the identification of a positive COVID-19 case in the House, a more transparent reporting process to members and staff, more stringent policies in place including the wearing of masks prior to a return to in-person work, and an easily understandable set of criteria for when staff are sent home to work and when they are asked to return.

“Mr. Speaker, we are asking you to help us ensure that the Ohio House of Representatives is doing everything it can to protect the health, safety, and welfare of members, the staff, and the public we serve. There is still important work that needs to be done by the Ohio House of Representatives, but we need to tackle the coronavirus in our workplace before anyone can be expected to return to fulfill their duties,” they wrote.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) echoed Leadership’s concerns over a lack of transparency surrounding the GOP staffer who tested positive with COVID-19. Rep. Miranda’s legislative aide was mistakenly identified as having had contact with the infected staffer and sent home without any additional details or explanation. Rep. Miranda also raised concerns about Republican staffers who “have not been wearing masks, not been staying in their offices, and have not been staying at safe distances.”

“Each of the things I've described is very serious on its own. Combined, they are a picture of chaos. We absolutely must do better by our staff and by the public going forward. Like most large workplaces in traditional office environments, the House should remain on Work From Home until it is safe to come back to the office,” Rep. Miranda writes.

Though House remains on work from home, constituents can still reach their representatives by calling 1-800-282-0253 or visiting www.ohiohouse.gov.

*Editor’s note: A copy of House Democratic leadership’s letter to the Speaker is attached.

House Democrats announce plans for a bill allowing legislative staff to unionize following positive COVID-19 case in the Ohio House (PDF)