Speaker: ‘Yes’ on Issue 2 will do more harm than good
Updated: September 28, 2011 – 10:10pm
With the future of unionization resting on the shoulders of Issue 2, about 40 residents and students got a chance to hear how attempts to destroy unionization could potentially destroy the middle class yesterday.
Ron Luce, executive director of the Athens County Historical Society, gave a presentation at Ohio University’s Alden Library discussing the correlation between the history of mine unions in Athens County and the legislation that could splinter modern unions.
“We are headed to a very dangerous place if we don’t stand up to these corporations,” said Luce, in regards to questions about Senate Bill 5’s effects on Ohio unions.
Luce’s presentation largely focused on the unionization of coal miners in Southeast Ohio, which began around 1865, he said, with the conclusion of the Civil War and just 40 years after coal production began in Athens County.
The dirty work faced by the miner “wage slaves” had to be accepted until the growth of these organizations began. Large coal companies forced miners into inhumane conditions that were met with the power of labor unions.
If Issue 2 were to pass in November, Luce made very clear the possibility of this situation reoccurring.
“I learned a lot about the history of politics in the labor movement in this area,” said Iqra Anugrah, a graduate student studying political science. “History’s effects on future legislation will definitely affect us as citizens and students.”
The half-dozen almost-abandoned mining towns throughout the area are all that remains of the coal companies’ legacies, Luce said. Mining corporations today are moving back to the slave-wage mentality, cutting wages and benefits of workers while obtaining growing profits.
“We need to learn from the past about what is going on now,” Luce said.
After listening to Luce’s presentation, Lane Robbins, a graduate student studying journalism, said the “do more with less” mentality of corporate businesses toward unions is an “attack” on workers and their rights.
The anti-collective bargaining aspects of SB 5 will lead to the destruction of unions nationwide, Luce said, and allowing it to remain will keep the big corporations’ costs low at the price of mine workers’ occupations, safety and lives.