Great column from the Toledo Blade on Issue 2 as Labor Day weekend approaches. Commentary writer Marilou Johanek talks about SB5’s assault on Ohio’s working families. Excerpts of the article are below.
“Labor Day, 2011, will be touchy in Ohio. It marks the official beginning of an epic state battle that pits working people, unions, and Democrats against business interests, Republicans, and Gov. John Kasich.
“It’s a fight Ohioans didn’t ask for and certainly don’t need. They need jobs, not an all-out war against public employees launched along party lines.
“But GOP legislators in Columbus, taking a cue from their partisan brethren in other polarized statehouses across the country, are on a roll. They aim to swing as far to the right as House and Senate votes will allow.
“Their contentious ‘to-do’ list includes wiping out collective bargaining among state employees, which has little to do with pressing public concerns about topics from the economy to education.
“But the strategy of conservative ideologues is to strike while the iron is hot, to gain the political upper hand on party priorities while the GOP maintains majority status. The state’s Republican lawmakers exploited a budget crisis this year to pass a highly partisan measure that is hugely unpopular among most Ohioans.
“But GOP legislators went on the attack with public employee unions because they could. Senate Bill 5, signed by Governor Kasich in March, significantly weakens the rights and threatens the wages and benefits of more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees, and other public workers.
“Contrary to what SB 5 defenders claim, the measure is not reform. It is extreme political posturing masquerading as responsible policy making. It was the last straw for fed-up voters.
“The revolt was on. Finally. A citizen-initiated ballot referendum to repeal the law had no trouble getting signatures in each of Ohio’s 88 counties to qualify for a statewide vote…
“Of the roughly 1.3 million Ohioans who signed petitions to place a repeal of Ohio’s new collective bargaining law on the ballot, 915,000 signatures were certified. Now it’s up to voters to decide whether a partisan assault on working families will proceed.
“It was a punitive, unnecessary, unfair broadside against labor. From the very beginning, it was an affront to working people in the state. But employees, both union and nonunion, public and private sector, have an innate sense of foul play.
“By now, many also are aware of how Republican governors use Republican legislative majorities to extract political retribution with preordained agendas. It was widespread anger over government actions, which didn’t reflect public values, that fueled the drive to repeal SB 5.
“In a speech, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, called the Nov. 8 vote on the referendum, known as Issue 2, “the most important election in America in terms of sending a message to the radical leadership of the Republican Party.” But it will be an ugly multimillion-dollar means to an end.
“The campaigns to pan or preserve SB 5 will attract big money and big attention nationwide as a bellwether of Republican strength in the 2012 presidential race…
“But polls show Ohioans get it. Whatever one thinks about the need to reform the public sector, SB 5 is over-the-top severe. Lawmakers went too far in the guise of cutting costs.
“Watch as proponents make a sucker punch to the middle class sound positively praiseworthy. Do not be misled.
“On this Labor Day, resolve to stand in solidarity with Ohio’s working families and against those in power determined to diminish them — and us.”
Read the full article here.