At first glance you may think these are the totals from the 2011 SB5/Issue 2 Union attack waged by Governor Kasich (R-OH) and his Tea Party infused Legislature. It’s not. This is the Election Results from 11/04/1958 concerning a failed “Right To Work” ballot measure in Ohio. 1958.
Ohio was a manufacturing powerhouse. A highly unionized workforce drove the advancement of the Middle Class. Good wages, a fair progressive tax system and a world envied infrastructure renewal.
A Republican President presided over a booming economy with a top tax rate over 90%. He Federalized the Arkansas National Guard to integrate Little Rock’s schools. Eisenhower pushed the construction of the Interstate Highway system which became a driver of growth. It’s not like there was some socialist administration in power in D.C.
Ohio, then, as now, was a political bell weather and political player in national politics. Also then, as now, there were those powerful people of means that despised the progressive policies in place since “The New Deal”.
Unions were despised so Republican Governor C. William O’Neill and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce went after unions with a ballot measure, confident that it would pass. They did this over objections of Ohio GOP Chairman Ray Bliss and GOP Senator John Bricker. They ignored the fact that with a third of Ohio’s workforce being union members, nearly everyone was related to or knew a union member. It’s hard to demonize friends and family.
In 2011, newly elected radical Republicans, in control of the State Government, decided they had the power and political capital to destroy public sector unions. They passed Senate bill 5.
Organized labor’s reaction was swift and decisive. A ballot petition drive was launched. Those petitions garnered millions of signatures. They were delivered to the Secretary of State in a semi. A structural engineer was consulted to be sure the 150 year old State House floors could handle the load.
At Easter I was talking to a person I know in State Government, who told me the fight was simply an education issue. Once Ohio voters were taught the need for destroying public sector unions, the law would be overwhelmingly upheld.
The campaign, in an off year, drew national money and attention. GOP Presidential hopefuls, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney weighed in with their enthusiastic support. MSNBC host Ed Schultz repeatedly attacked the law and Kasich on his show. Ads for both sides flooded the airwaves.
In August 2011, seeing the dismal poll numbers, the GOP led Legislature and Governor Kasich tried to bring labor to the negotiating table to cancel the ballot vote. Labor reminded them the time for negotiation was BEFORE the bill became law.
Issue 2/SB 5 went down overwhelmingly. It actually mirrored the results from 1958. This at a time when only 13% of Ohio workers are still unionized.
One would think that the conservatives in Ohio saw there was no appetite for attacking unions among Ohio voters. That they learned their lesson. Well, you’d be wrong.
Nearly immediately we saw a ballot drive being mentioned to make Ohio a so-called “Right To Work” State. Since 2012, Ohioans For Workplace Freedom has been gathering petition signatures to place a Right To Work intuitive on the ballot. They’re still short but persevering
Kasich and some members of the Ohio GOP do not want a 2011 replay during a reelection bid for Governor and all statewide offices. Labor drove a massive voter turnout for an off year election to crush issue 2. The last thing they want is a Right To Work measure on the ballot to energize the electorate. Thus you aren’t seeing any real support from Republican officeholders and movers and shakers.
There is also another potential ballot issue looming that may energize both ends of the political spectrum: Marriage Equality.
In 2004, an amendment to Ohio’s constitution to forbid Same Sex Marriage helped George Bush beat John Kerry in Ohio. That measure brought social conservatives out in droves.
A repeal and replace measure will bring out the left and right to battle over the concept of equal means equal in Ohio. Should it make the ballot it should drive turnout and complicate the reelection bids of Kasich and others.
Both issues are cruising along under the media’s radar. Stealth issues that will dramatically affect the political landscape in Ohio this cycle. Should both or either make the ballot, Ohio will be front and center on the national stage once again.
This will be interesting. Like that old Chinese curse, interesting.
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