by Clyde Weiss | October 27, 2011
Ohio state meat inspector Lee A. Eicher says Issue 2 must be defeated for safety’s sake.
Ohio state meat inspector Lee A. Eicher wants the state’s voters to understand that by voting “No” on Issue 2 on Nov. 8, she is better able to do the very best job possible protecting people from food-borne illnesses. That’s because Eicher does that job best when inspectors like her can sit down with their employer – through collective bargaining – to negotiate improvements to their working conditions.
“The public should care,” says Eicher, a member of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11, “because if somebody gets hurt – and we’re already at low staffing levels – that’s one more person missing, and that would affect food safety. The fewer people out there protecting food safety, the greater the risk.”
Eicher has spent the last 14 years as an employee of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection. She says collective bargaining enabled the inspectors to negotiate for employer-provided safety equipment such as hard hats and steel-toed shoes. Having such equipment is critical because a meat inspector could get seriously injured, or even killed, if accidentally struck by a falling animal carcass or heavy equipment in the processing facility.
The safety equipment issue “came up in early contracts in the 1980s,” she says. Before then, the employer was not required to provide it. “You had to pay for it yourself,” she says. “Sometimes, that meant inspectors weren’t adequately protected.”
Without collective bargaining, Eicher says, the employer would have the final say on such matters. That right would be revoked, however, unless voters cast a “No” vote on Issue 2. Voting no would repeal the corporate-backed, anti-worker law Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), which Gov. John Kasich (R) signed into law in March.
With her experience and education, Eicher says she could go to a higher-paying job in the private sector. But she prefers to work for the state because she wants to make sure “the people I love, the people I grew up with, and the people of Ohio” are protected by inspectors like her – people who care about their work more than their compensation.
Preserving collective bargaining rights in Ohio will help ensure that dedicated public service workers like Eicher remain on the job, doing the work that taxpayers expect and deserve. Read more about why SB 5 must be repealed, and hear from other workers why they also want to repeal the law.
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