The Chamber Board of Directors has discussed in depth the impact of Issue 2 on our community and our state. This is a difficult issue and involves a variety of sectors in the community. Last week I received a letter from We Are Ohio that was sent from the North Shore AFL-CIO regarding Issue 2. The Chamber Board of Directors has asked that I respond to this letter by communicating with the membership.
The Chamber has not taken a formal position on Issue 2 at this time. The letter from the AFL-CIO/We Are Ohio is in italics and my response follows each paragraph.
Dear Ms. Debra Lynn-Schmitz,
We Are Ohio formally asks the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce to announce you will remain neutral on Issue 2, the repeal of SB 5.
The Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce’s (the “Chamber") mission is to serve our member investors and promote business interests through economic development, business advocacy and member services, all of which benefit the greater Medina community. “We Are Ohio” does not have any standing with the Chamber regarding what position to take or how to address this issue. Although the Chamber has not taken a formal position, our Board of Directors has agreed that we should educate our members on this issue.
Your membership is diverse. Taking a position on issue 2 cannot be accomplished with unanimity. Many of your members oppose SB 5 because it is not in the best interest of their business and your community.
We appreciate our diverse membership. Our members take seriously the right to determine what is in the best interest of their business and community, and shall not be influenced or intimidated through the position taken by the AFL-CIO/We Are Ohio.
In Medina County alone, there are 8,994 state and local public employees that will lose their right to speak up on the job for their safety, the safety of their coworkers and the families they serve if SB 5 is not repealed.
We respect our state and local public employees. Issue 2 clearly states that the purchase and use of safety equipment can be negotiated under “terms and conditions” of employment. The practice of having the Union determine how many officers and firefighters are on duty or responding, rather than allowing safety force management to make decisions based on professional training and experience, does not guarantee our community is any safer. In fact, the layoffs and lost jobs through attrition that are not filled because of strained local budgets places the safety of our community in question.
These public employees are not alone. In Medina County, 7,622 people signed the petition to place Issue 2 before voters on Nov. 8. These 7,622 people are also customers who support employee rights and worker safety. They believe SB 5 is unfair, unsafe and hurts all of us.
It is possible that people did not understand the issue and/or believed putting an issue on the ballot is the democratic way. It does not necessarily mean they believe SB 5 is unfair and unsafe. The public’s actions thus far represent a signature, not a vote either way on this Issue.
Taking a position sends the wrong message to the working, middle class families in your community who earn and then spend their paychecks on small and big businesses in the Medina County area.
The results of the vote on Issue 2 do have an impact on small and big businesses in the Medina County area. Sustaining the existing system will surely cause a significant number of layoffs in the public sector and leave less for our community as a whole to spend. The majority of our community, or any community, consists of “middle-class”, hard-working citizens including our public employees and private employers. The “middle class families” are the same families that are paying the taxes to sustain our public employees and reach far beyond the public employee sector.
Local merchants have signed on with the statewide Proud Ohio Workers program in which small businesses prominently affix a window sticker stating that public and private employees keep them open and profitable.
We take no issue with a message that welcomes the community, including public and private employees. However, we do not believe a business should be intimidated into placing such a sticker in their window to avoid retaliation by the Union. That is insulting and disrespectful to our community members.
We see no good reason for the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce to become engaged in this issue. Taking a position provides no benefits to your members and is an insult to your members’ customers. Your position would also be at odds with a large number of community, government and religious leaders in your area.
This issue impacts jobs, taxes, and economic development. These are core interests for the Chamber of Commerce. We also believe this issue impacts the ability for our elected officials to do their jobs. We believe in democracy and the free enterprise system. We believe that citizens have a right to disagree and make a decision based on accurate facts and information.
We Are Ohio supports the workers employed by your members and pledges to continue supporting local businesses. Please demonstrate a mutual respect by staying neutral.
We are not going to make a decision because We Are Ohio is attempting to intimidate us by subtly threatening to withdraw support of our members. The “We Are Ohio/AFL-CIO” is not demonstrating mutual respect by telling our organization how to respond and conduct our business. We are a special interest, membership organization that answers to our membership. Since the AFL-CIO/We Are Ohio organization also represents special interests, they should remain neutral.
Ignoring our request to remain neutral goes against the wishes of 1.3 million Ohioans who signed and more than 10,000 volunteers who circulated petitions to place Issue 2 before the voters.
Just as the We Are Ohio/AFL-CIO has the right to communicate to their membership, the Chamber may communicate anything to our membership we deem appropriate and then only in a professional, respectful manner. We all depend on volunteers and recognize that volunteers are an important part of our community and our quality of life. We respect those that feel strongly enough to volunteer their time for a cause they believe in, even if it does not necessarily reflect our perspective.
We Are Ohio
Debra Lynn-Schmitz, President
Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce
145 N. Court St.
Medina, OH 44256