Jean Fightmaster has been retired for over four years but remembers the days before collective bargaining in Ohio. Terrible working conditions and issues with safety were common. Sexism, racism and favoritism in the workplace were the order of the day. “I remember when multiple female co-workers, who had more experience and seniority, were passed up for promotions, and instead the jobs were given to less experienced men,” said Fightmaster.
Jean Fightmaster – a retiree from OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11 – started her public service career in 1978 at Franklin County Human Services in the clerical department then moved her way up the ladder – while raising three kids – to become an investigator for the state, tracking welfare fraud and food stamp eligibility. Fightmaster moved over the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) in 1988, where she served as an investigator until she retired in 2006. At the BWC, she investigated fraud in workers’ compensation claims but also worked with families, affected by a death on the job, to assist with their claims. “Our job was to be impartial in order to protect the interests of Ohio taxpayers, but also to protect the families affected by these devastating losses,” said Fightmaster.
Fightmaster is concerned that Senate Bill 5 will lower the bar for all workers in the state. “It is a slippery slope,” said Fightmaster. “I remember the horrible things co-workers and friends went through before the collective bargaining law was passed. The law has stopped a lot of those abuses and helped to improve conditions, not only for firefighters, sanitation workers, case managers, and other public service workers, but for workers in the private sector as well. That is why this law is so dangerous – because it puts all workers at risk.”
As a retiree, Fightmaster is also concerned about the effect the bill will have on retirement security for workers and the hit local economies will take from the loss of retiree spending. “This bill is an attempt to destroy unions entirely and will take away workers’ voices on issues like retirement, which is an important part of all local economies in Ohio,” said Fightmaster. “Like my husband and I, Ohio retirees tend to stay in Ohio and spend their money in their communities. If this bill passes, though, it could put at risk billions of dollars that keep Ohio small businesses running.