In 2011 Governor John Kasich helped lead the charge against public sector unions in Ohio. He put the full force of his office behind the effort to protect the union-busting provisions of Senate Bill 5, sending key members of his team – including Chief-of-Staff Beth Hanson – over to the pro-SB5 group Building a Better Ohio.
His efforts failed and Ohio’s workers won a victory. As a result, the Governor’s approval rating took a nose dive. Kasich has since tried to distance himself from overtly anti-labor causes like a proposed Right to Work ballot initiative, but his budget priorities clearly show he has not lost his lust for damaging public sector unions in Ohio.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Industry Classification with the highest percentage of unionization is local government, at 45.2%. State government comes in second with 34.9%.
The same data show that Education tops the list of most unionized Occupations at 39.2% (including both K-12 teachers and college professors). And Protective Service Occupations, which include police, fire and corrections officers, comes in second at 36.5%.
It is no accident that the funding cuts in Kasich’s budget focus like a laser on these industries and occupations.
Kasich’s two budgets would cut nearly $1 Billion from the Local Government Fund (LGF) by 2015. When you add in cuts to public utility tax reimbursements, tangible personal property tax reimbursements and the library fund, local governments lost a billion dollars in Kasich’s first two-year budget and Policy Matters estimates local governments will lose another $1.4 billion in this budget.
The cuts have resulted in staff reductions around the state, including many in police and fire.
According to the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters (OAPFF), the ranks of professional fire fighters in Ohio have dropped 1.4% since 2010, including major staff reductions in cities like Akron (down 30 overall) and Sycamore Township (84 full and part time firefighters laid off). Those numbers could quickly grow larger this May when federal SAFER grants expire putting additional fire fighter jobs in Loraine (12), Hamilton (18), Findlay (20) and many other cities at risk.
The list of law enforcement positions either laid off or unfilled continues to grow with huge staffing shortages in East Cleveland (20), Garfield Heights (14) and the Summit County Sheriff’s office: down 60 full and part time officers and staff.
The cuts in public safety should have been much worse, but many local governments and residents stepped up and passed levies to help keep public safety professionals on the job. With Kasich’s current budget continuing these cuts, expect to see more levies and more layoffs.
Kasich’s first budget cut $128 Million from the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) and the Department of Youth Services. He also sold one state facility, the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, to private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America and privatized the North Shore Correctional Institution.
According to DRC Monthly Fact Sheets, the total number of Corrections Officers in public institutions has decreased by 749 since January 2011 – a drop of 10.6%!
Kasich’s latest budget continues those cuts, coming it at $117 Million below 2010/2011 levels. He’s also hatched a new plan that would eliminate 500 jobs at Ohio’s prisons by privatizing food service operations.
Kasich’s latest budget proposal cuts another $150 Million from Higher Education compared to 2010. His cuts have put pressure on universities like BGSU, which is planning to layoff 100 full time faculty positions this year. The budget also includes a provision to micromanage faculty workload, urging universities to make each professor teach an additional class.
Reminder: Kasich and his assistant (now lobbyist) Don Thibaut were paid $70K/year – more than the average professor – to give one lecture a month at OSU. But, you know, those lazy professors don’t work hard enough.
The axe Kasich took to K-12 education in his first budget is widely known: $1.8 billion in effective cuts. His latest budget continues those cuts to Ohio’s neediest school districts. And he’s promised to gut school funding even further in his next budget, should he get reelected, by removing guarantee funds currently helping keep many poor districts afloat.
Kasich has publicly come out against school levies to make up the difference, instead telling districts to find alternatives that would likely decrease the number of teachers in classrooms. For example, when asked by a Republican legislator how his already-struggling schools were supposed to afford teachers for basic art and music classes, Kasich’s education adviser told him to share teachers with another district or to consider “digital options”.
KASICH IS STILL ANTI-LABOR
With his poll numbers improving, and the 2014 election just around the corner, Kasich is doing all he can to avoid discussing public sector labor in Ohio. The last thing he wants is a repeat of the SB5 battle where he was forced to publicly admit his true feelings about Ohio’s police, fire, education and corrections professionals.
Kasich has so far refused to lend support to the Right to Work folks who are anxiously gathering signatures to get their anti-union issue on the ballot. And we’ve heard he’s putting pressure on fellow Republicans not to the support the initiative either. But don’t be fooled. Just because the Governor isn’t out publicly slamming unions in every speech doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind about the rights of Ohio’s public sector workers.
John Kasich’s budget priorities show he’s just as anti-labor as he’s ever been.