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Ohio voters open to "right-to-work" law: poll

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A majority of Ohio voters support joining neighboring Indiana as an anti-union "right-to-work" state, three months after Ohio voters supported labor by rejecting an anti-public union law, a Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday found.

Fifty-four percent of Ohio registered voters polled favored adopting a "right-to-work" law that would ban workers from being required to join a union or pay dues. Forty percent opposed it.

Indiana on February 1 became the 23rd state, and the first in the nation's Midwestern manufacturing heartland, to enact a "right-to-work" law, and supporters of similar measures in Ohio hope to put the issue to a vote as a proposed state constitutional amendment.

In November, Ohio voters rejected a referendum that would have limited collective bargaining rights for public workers in what was seen as a major victory for organized labor and sound defeat for Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who supported the measure.

However, support for a "right-to-work" law was strong among Republicans with 77 percent in favor, while 55 percent of independent voters supported a law and 61 percent of Democrats opposed it, according to the poll results.

"Many of those same independents who stood up for unions this past November ... are standing up to unions by backing 'right-to-work' legislation," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The Quinnipiac telephone poll of 1,421 registered voters was taken from February 7 to February 12 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Proponents of a "right-to-work" state constitutional amendment must collect about 386,000 signatures to put the question to voters in November.

About 13.4 percent of Ohio workers were members of unions in 2011, a larger percentage than in Indiana, where 11.3 percent were in unions, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, about 11.8 percent of workers were union members.

(Editing by David Bailey and Daniel Trotta)

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