COLUMBUS, OH — As COVID-19 rears its head in the Ohio Statehouse, legislators are arguing their staff should be able to unionize to fight for a safer workplace.
A proposal to allow collective bargaining for currently exempted state employees was announced this week. State Reps. Allison Russo and Jeffrey Crossman introduced the legislation and have asked the entire Ohio House to co-sponsor the bill.
The move to allow unionization comes after a Republican staffer at the capitol tested positive for COVID-19. Speaker Larry Householder reinstituted the House's work from home policy last week in an attempt to mitigate the virus' spread.
State Rep. Kent Smith said there has been little communication about COVID-19's spread among staffers. He said he has not been tested for the virus and his staff has not been tested for the virus.
"There's not enough testing," he told Patch. House Democrats sent a letter to Householder on Friday asking for a briefing on how the positive COVID-19 test was handled and what health and safety protocols are being implemented.
Russo argues allowing staffers to unionize could protect lives.
“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,” Russo said in a statement.