There was a time not too long ago when it was common for some labor unions to endorse candidates from the Republican Party.  And by not too long ago, I mean earlier this year.  Understandably, the passage of the anti-union Senate Bill 5 legislation has turned many unions away from the Republicans who have supported it in the Statehouse, but I was honestly surprised when House Speaker Batchelder returned the favor by lumping all public unions together with his political enemy, the Democratic Party, by claiming that the lack of union-desired amendments to the pending law was the distinct fault of Democratic legislators, not Republicans.  Senate President Tom Niehaus chimed in, too.  In last week’s Dispatch:

Batchelder also ripped Democratic legislators for refusing to offer amendments to Senate Bill 5.  “This was a complete abdication of moral responsibility on their part,” he said.

Batchelder says he is concerned about issues like this where folks are so angry, because it’s bad for Ohio. He says he asked for amendments from both sides, but Democrats said no.

Niehaus said Democrats expressed no willingness to meet in middle during the legislative process. “We did reach out. Made concerted effort,” he said. “Delete, delete, delete” is what the Democrats wanted to do.

The lead-up to the forum for Batchelder’s statements helps to solidify his partisan gaffe that alienates any future connection between public unions and Republicans.  Remember Wednesday when Batchelder, along with Governor Kasich and Niehaus, invited union representatives to meet to discuss compromise?  The invitation excludes any mention of Democratic legislators, unambiguously welcoming only 10 leaders from the public unions.

And when the unions declined the invite, giving the three amigos a press conference of their own, Batchelder abdicated the responsibility of his own party in the process and heaped the blame for Senate Bill 5 squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats who, by his own admission, DIDN’T contribute a single word of the legislation, and he then conveniently forgot that the disagreements center around the parts of the law that were crafted in secret by Republicans.

And to criticize this bill in such a partisan way continues their shell-game policy of pretending that SB5 is actually a partisan bill.  Think they forgot the story of Bill Seitz, former Senate Insurance, Labor & Commerce Committee member, who was removed to get SB5 successfully out of committee?

Or how about Republican Senator Timothy Grendell, who also famously spoke out against Senate Bill 5 on many occasions, also offering amendments before he voted against the bill at every turn?  Who was he trying to represent?

Grendell, a staunch conservative not known for being a champion of labor unions, has raised a constitutional challenge to the bill and said that not allowing some form of arbitration will set the state up for costly litigation it will lose. Grendell, who has met numerous times with police and fire groups, said that today he will today introduce 17 amendments to the bill. He hopes that union groups notice that not all Republicans are taking a hard stance against them.

Batchelder and Niehaus have too many years of experience to slip up and say such things in error – these divisive statements were scripted in advance.  When the most powerful voices in the Ohio Republican Party disown ALL public sector unions, even those who have endorsed them in the past, it cannot be considered anything but political payback and a threat to all public union employees in Ohio. Payback for the public union workers who have held them accountable for their lies and rescinded their endorsements.

Senate President Niehaus is one of the more significant Senators who had an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police rescinded this year.  On March 16, the Ohio Valley Lodge voted to rescind their endorsement of the Senate President.

The Members approve of the rescinding and terminating of endorsements for all elected officials who support the passage of Senate Bill 5.

That same resolution served to revoke the endorsement of Joseph Uecker, Chair of the House Commerce and Labor Committee that moved the bill through the House with little change.  Uecker received their endorsement in the November 2010 race.

Already voided was the endorsement of Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee Chair Kevin Bacon.  On March 9, Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge #9 President Jim Gilbert announced that they withdrew an endorsement for the first time in the organization’s history.  That same day, the Columbus Fire Fighters Union voted unanimously to rescind Bacon’s endorsement, a first in their history, too.  In his letter to Bacon, Columbus FF President Jack Reall said:

This decision was reached due to your misleading comments during our Political screening process and your subsequent actions conflicting with your commitment to our members.

Your actions in supporting and voting for Senate Bill 5 do not reflect the commitment you made to our members. We must hold you accountable for this lack of integrity.

Bacon’s committee oversaw the legislation in the Senate and may best be remembered for passing a 100-page amendment to the bill one day after it was introduced, and after he pushed for a committee vote while being unwilling to permit any public hearings about the changes. 

And finally, the biggest Senator to be rebuked was Senate Bill 5 creator and sole sponsor, Shannon Jones.  The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Senator Jones on April 9, 2010 with a statement that can only be described as regrettably ironic:

Our members feel that you are truly concerned about the public safety of our communities, the neighborhoods, and the safety of Ohio’s children,” FOP President Nick DiMarco said in a letter released by the campaign.

Thirteen months later, the organization had been forced to re-evaluate its position:

McDonald told the Associated Press that the board felt Jones betrayed them by sponsoring the collective-bargaining legislation.

“We asked her about collective bargaining, and she told us she was not a fan, but believed that police and fire were different,” he said.

And perhaps most revealing in light of last week’s claims by Ohio’s big three:

McDonald said the group chose to endorse Jones because it felt they could discuss issues, even though they didn’t always agree on them.

They rescinded their endorsement because they realized she wasn’t open to discussion.

Until Senate Bill 5 came along this year, it was not an unusual occurrence to find the endorsement lists of public unions, especially safety forces, littered with Republicans.  In fact, as you can see from the endorsements listed above, the key players in the passage of Senate Bill 5 could credit these endorsements with helping them get into office.  And If the endorsements by the unions for safety forces of Republican candidates is not unusual, we can find evidence that Kasich’s unwillingness to talk is nothing new.

Cleveland police made endorsements in 16 House, Senate and judicial races last year, supporting nine Republicans and eight Democrats. They did not endorse in the governor’s race, [Cleveland police union president Stephen] Loomis said, because Kasich refused to meet with them and his members were not satisfied with former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, whom Kasich defeated.

Not only do the Republicans not care about their supporters, their constituents, but Kasich, Batchelder, and Niehaus have now decided to ignore any remnants of party allegiance of these public union members by clearly stating that Democrats have the exclusive responsibility to speak for labor, not Republicans.

Given this public stance, why didn’t they invite Democrats to this faux meeting in an effort to compromise?  Senate Bill 5 didn’t have to be a partisan bill, and some might say it isn’t when you consider 6 Republican Senators voted against it both times it hit the Senate Floor.  This past week, however, Kasich, Batchelder, and Niehaus made it crystal clear that they do not support unions in any way.  They are unmistakably stating that if union members want someone to speak on their behalf and implement changes to legislation, then they had better get Democrats elected into office.

Their words.

Vote NO on Issue 2 .