Rarely do voters in any state get to confront the arrogance and greed of public employee unions at the ballot box.
When taxpayers get that chance, as in Wisconsin (the birthplace of government worker unions), they vote to defeat government of, by and for the staff and reinstitute government of, by and for the people.
Such an opportunity is now before the voters of Ohio.
Issue 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot is a referendum by WeAreOhio.com of Senate Bill 5, which was championed by Ohio’s new Republican governor, John Kasich, and passed last March by the new Republican majority in the Ohio Legislature.
S.B. 5 removes pension and health issues from collective bargaining while retaining collective bargaining rights for wages and hours for about 400,000 government workers in Ohio.
S.B. 5 prohibits public worker strikes, prohibits government unions from charging “fair share” dues to employees who opt out of union membership, and authorizes increases in government employee contributions (up to 15 percent) for health insurance and pensions.
A “yes” vote will keep S.B. 5, and a “no” vote will repeal it.
A similar reform effort in Wisconsin resulted in a nationally televised confrontation but has resulted in “unexpectedly” balanced budgets in school districts and city governments. School teachers have not been fired, cops are on the beat, firefighters at the ready.
Wisconsin has fallen out of the national media because Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans were right and the unions were wrong. Reform has saved teacher jobs that were in jeopardy because of falling tax revenues.
Every voter in this country has an interest in this Ohio election because, in every state and local government, this same battle is going on between unionized public employees and the taxpayers who support them. Repeal of S.B. 5 would simply reimpose on the besieged Ohio middle-class private sector worker the duty to maintain the lifestyle of the middle-class public sector worker.
Even liberal columnist Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times:
“The public sector workplace has become a kind of artificial Eden, whose fortunate inhabitants enjoy solid pay and 1950s-style job security and retirement benefits, all of it paid for by their less fortunate private sector peers. Some on the left have convinced themselves that this ‘success’ can lay the foundation for a broader middle-class revival. But if a bloated public sector were the blueprint for a thriving middle class society, then the whole world would be beating a path to Greece’s door.”
Yet pumping up state and local government budgets to save bloated government worker benefits has always been the objective of President Obama’s “stimulus” proposals. Obama is the “some on the left” who believe that the “middle class” is defined by government employment.
“Crazy Joe” Biden screeched last week in Flint, Mich., that rape and murder would increase unless Obama’s “jobs” bill passed, providing more money for state and local government budgets to protect government workers benefits. The Flint murder and rape rates have actually gone down, even though falling tax revenues have forced the city to lay off cops.
Government workers are no more popular in Ohio than anywhere else, but teachers, firefighters and cops are as popular as anywhere. Teachers, firefighters and cops are, of course, the face of the “No” on Issue 2 campaign.
But in Ohio, as elsewhere, firefighters are retiring in their 50s receiving more in retirement pay than when they were working. In Ohio, as elsewhere, government spending on education has doubled, test scores have flat lined, and good and bad teachers are paid the same and protected from accountability. And the voters know it.
Asking government workers to contribute more to their pension and health insurance costs is popular with Ohio voters; taking away collective bargaining rights less so. In fact, publicly released polls show S.B. 5 losing by a wide margin. Internal union polls show the measure closer.
The national union effort to defeat S.B. 5 is in high gear. Last week, the “Labor 411” newsletter of the Los Angeles Labor Council called for 100 volunteers “to go from L.A. to Ohio, Nov. 4-9” to “knock on doors, talk to your union sisters and brothers one-on-one and get them to the polls.” Airfare, hotel rooms and food paid for by the Labor Council.
This campaign is a make or break for the unions after their defeat in Wisconsin. Ohio unions, led by the state’s teacher’s union, have contributed about $15 million so far to the “No” on S.B. 5 campaign, matched by about $15 million from outside Ohio unions and progressive groups and individuals.
Gov. Kasich and his allies have raised about $6 million to date in the “Yes” on S.B. 5 effort.
They need your help. Check out BetterOhio.org for more information and how you (wherever you are) can help.