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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ohio Healthy Families Act is dead, but what's next?

Aside from being key battleground states in the 2008 election, Ohio and Colorado have another similarity, one to which employers in our state should pay attention.

In 2006, both states' voters passed ballot initiatives that amended their respective state constitutions to provide for a higher minimum wage. Why, you might be asking, should Ohio businesses care about what Colorado voters did two year ago? Because both minimum wage ballot initiatives were union-backed, as was the Healthy Families Act, and as are four different measures on Colorado's ballot this fall that should have businesses scared for their lives. According to Business Insurance, Colorado employers are fighting four proposed constitutional amendments on November's ballot that would devastate businesses in that state, by:

  • Eliminating "at will" employment and requiring private employers to have a "just cause" with supporting documentation before terminating employees.
  • Mandating that all companies with 20 or more employees provide health insurance for workers and dependents.
  • Removing workers compensation's "exclusive remedy" provision, and permitting injured workers to collect workers comp benefits and sue their employer.
  • Holding corporate officials criminally liable for illegal company activities.

Ohio businesses quickly mobilized against the Healthy Families Act, and should be commended for their efforts to defeat it. Imagine, however, the devastating cumulative effect of no more at-will employment, mandatory health insurance, and private lawsuits for workplace injuries. Companies need to stay vigilant in their efforts to keep Ohio business-friendly, and combat the type of job-killing ballot initiatives that labor organizations are testing in Colorado. Do not think for a second that if one or more of these Colorado initiatives are successful that we won't see some combination of them in 2010.

As long as labor organization can place transparently populist anti-business measures on the ballot via petition drives, we need to be mindful of what is happening in Colorado and fearful that it will come our way in the next election cycle.

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