If you could give employers the option to prevent layoffs without increasing their costs, is that the kind of legislation you’d expect to earn bipartisan support? The answer, of course, is yes.

Yet too often, when debating legislation in Ohio, the conversation shifts to who benefits more – workers or businesses? After all, legislation has to lean one way or the other, right? I disagree. I believe that, sometimes, we all can get along, Republicans and Democrats, putting the greater good first.

By way of illustration, I want to share my experience with my fifth bill as a freshman legislator. On March 14th, I introduced House Bill 484, aka “SharedWork Ohio”, with a total of 19 co-sponsors ranging from staunch conservatives to progressive liberals – members that advocate for businesses and those that advocate for labor unions.

SharedWork Ohio (HB 484) creates what is known as a “shared work” or “short-time compensation” program. The idea is simple: rather than face traditional layoffs, employees share the work that’s available, while collecting partial unemployment. It’s basically a cost-neutral swap for employers.

Why is this valuable? For the employee, the answer is obvious. They keep their job and benefits while avoiding any potential downward spiral from losing their job. Employers, on the other hand, keep their talented workforce intact, saving money without layoffs.

When I think of shared work, I think of the best qualities of Ohioans: a willingness to help others, recognition that change is sometimes necessary and belief that better times are ahead. Shared work can help mothers and fathers avoid having to tell their families: “I lost my job today.”

You might expect shared work to be possible in Ohio today. To an extent, reduced hours are possible. But until Ohio implements a formal shared work program, we will continue to incentivize layoffs over a reduction in hours because layoffs are what our unemployment system currently supports.

A secondary benefit of shared work is that it can indirectly lead to lower taxes. As a result of the recent recession, Ohio owes approximately $2.3 billion in federal unemployment loans. That debt has triggered higher unemployment taxes in Ohio. Because shared work is federally funded for three years, under Congress’ recently passed H.R. 3630, SharedWork Ohio has the potential to offset our existing debt and thereby accelerate a reduction in Ohio taxes. That will help Ohio employers’ bottom line.

Ultimately, businesses have the right to choose layoffs, and in many cases, this will still occur. Such is the case when business is slowing down permanently. But, in other cases, shared work offers a valuable alternative for cyclical downturns as well as transition periods.

For workers training for new jobs, shared work allows them to learn new job skills during their time off while staying employed the rest of the week. This makes job training easier than ever, which is especially important in a global economy where human resource needs change frequently.

Twenty-three states already have shared work programs including Texas, Missouri and New York. It’s not a new idea; it’s just an overdue one for Ohio. From Ronald Reagan, who signed the first federal program into law, to Barack Obama, who negotiated an employer-friendly modernization of the program into law this year, shared work has earned bipartisan support for over thirty years.

It’s time for Ohio to start its own shared work program.


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