1200px-Ohio_Statehouse_columbus Ohio Statehouse columbus by Alexander Smith is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Here we go again! 

Last year, a diverse coalition of the state’s leading industries and employers successfully implored Ohio legislators not to support House Bill 235, the High Hazard Training Certification (HHTC) Act, a job-killing labor mandate. But this June, the same crony-capitalist labor quota bill, which would force Ohio’s petroleum refineries to hire only union construction contractors and subcontractors so they can “secure their market share,” was reintroduced.  

House Bill 205 (HB 205) — ironically labeled as the “Protect Ohio Workers” bill — was introduced earlier this month, then referred to and heard in the House Homeland Security Committee in less than 24 hours. The House voted on the bill just last week, approving it, but a whopping 29 Republican house members voted no.  

The bill asserts that workplace safety is a major concern in the refining industry and that additional union workers would fix the problem. Yet the industry is already remarkably safe. Compared with more than 500 other manufacturing industries, the U.S. refining industry boasts the lowest injury and illness rates according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Refineries that can access the largest hiring pool generally have better safety records than when limited to union workers only. The data simply does not support a ban on an entire class of apprentices, especially in the name of safety. And what the proponents of HB 205 will not tell you is that the bill does not require jobs to go to Ohioans. In fact, it will guarantee that hardworking Ohioans who do not pay dues to union bosses could lose their jobs on day one if this bill passes. 

While HB 205 will have a negligible impact on worker safety, it would interfere with efficient operations at Ohio’s four refineries by mandating high quotas of union workers. Beginning in 2022, the bill requires 45% of workers hired for construction projects to have completed registered apprenticeship training. That quota will increase rapidly through 2024, when 80% of project workers must be graduates of a government-approved program. Most industry-recognized apprentices who have the same skills will have to find a job elsewhere. 

Although the word “union” is never mentioned in the legislative text, HB 205 recognizes only participants and graduates of registered, government-approved apprenticeship programs. That means apprentices in similar programs recognized by the refining industry, but not registered with the Ohio government, cannot count toward the new mandatory quotas. Unionized workers are far more likely to qualify under these standards; that is why labor unions are leading the charge to push this bill through

Meanwhile, Ohio’s refineries will have to sacrifice significant time and resources to meticulously ensure their quotas are being met. After all, the bill intimidates companies into compliance with harsh penalties. Refineries that do not fulfill their government-mandated quota of union workers face a hefty fine of $10,000 per worker for every day they are not in compliance. 

A big thank you is owed to the Representatives who stood against this costly mandate: Representatives Bird, Claggett, Cross, Dean, Ferguson, Fowler-Arthur, Gross, Holmes, Hoops, John, Kick, Klopfenstein, Lear, Lipps, Lorenz, Manchester, Mathews, McClain, Merrin, Melanie, Miller, Peterson, Powell, Robb Blasdel, Seitz, Stein, Stewart, Stoltzfus, White, and Willis.