Ohio Politics

A Monthly Blog

Compiled By Marty Kich

AAUP-WSU home page

AAUP-WSU blog page

November 2011

[Click the links to pdf’s of the full articles.]

For those who may have missed some of the articles or who may simply enjoy reliving a very nice moment, I’ll begin with some links to articles on the defeat of Senate Bill 5, by referendum, on November 8: the articles that I found especially worth reading appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Athens Banner-HeraldPlunderbund provided an excellent timeline of the entire Senate Bill 5 story, from its introduction by Senator Shannon Brown to its defeat by referendum. Plunderbund also offered a sobering warning about the limits of the referendum victory, emphasizing that although Senate Bill 5 has been repealed, the biennial budget that was drafted as a complement to the legislation is still in force and will have potentially disastrous consequences for many public employees and the communities and school districts that they serve.

Opponents of Senate Bill 5 did not have to wait long to find out what would be next on the radical Right’s agenda.  The organizers of the successful state Issue 3, which indicated Ohioans opposition to the individual mandate that was part of the federal health-care reform, almost immediately began gathering signatures to place on the November 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would make Ohio a Right-to-Work state.  Although the immediate impact of Right-to Work legislation would be on members of private-sector unions, it would clearly lay the groundwork for a repeat attempt at gutting public-employee unions. Republican leaders very quickly recognized the political liabilities in making collective-bargaining rights an issue again in 2012 and sought to distance themselves and their party from the proposed constitutional amendment. But conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart seems to have spoken for everyone on the Far Right when he observed that the Right-to-Work amendment would be “the right legislation at the wrong time”—in effect, warning opponents of Senate Bill 5 that the victory in the referendum on Senate Bill 5 will not be sustained without considerable effort.

In an editorial for the Newark Advocate, David Greene has correctly described the proposed amendment as a “Right to Work for Less” law and has outlined the major arguments against such laws.

In an effort to assist Indiana unions in opposing Right to Work legislation that will almost certainly be introduced in the next session of that state’s legislature, the Ohio AFL-CIO is asking for volunteers to man phone banks in Ohio’s major cities, starting in January 2012.

Similar Right to Work legislation was passed by the New Hampshire legislature but vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor. The measure was so controversial in even that very conservative state that the Republican majority in the legislature could not maintain enough solidarity to override the governor’s veto.

In Wisconsin, the effort to recall Governor Walker has gotten off to a fast start, with more than 300,000 of the needed 540,000 signatures being gathered in the first two weeks. What has been most surprising has been the large number of signatures gathered in the typically conservative, rural counties of the state. In a March 2011 article for Mother Jones, Kevin Drum provided a detailed analysis of the historical trends that have led to the recent virulently anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin and other states. The authors of somewhat shorter and less in-depth articles in the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor have come to similar conclusions.

In Michigan, Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature have gone after unions in a legislatively more piecemeal fashion, which has made it somewhat more difficult to organize opposition to their radical agenda.  Snyder pushed through legislation authorizing his appointment of emergency managers with draconian powers to “correct” budgetary problems in municipalities and school districts with current or even projected operating deficits. Local governments and school boards have been rendered inconsequential by the edicts of these state-appointed managers, and there is no mechanism for appealing or challenging any of those actions. So much for placing a greater value on local government  and attempting to limit the reach of government at the state and federal levels.  These emergency managers have become all the more controversial because they have been imposed disproportionately on communities with large African-American populations.

But the attack on the teaching unions remains the most telling illustration of the radical nature of the Far-Right agenda in Michigan.  Writing for Mother Jones, Andy Kroll has provided a succinct overview of the attack on public education in Michigan. The attack has followed a pattern that should be familiar to the residents of Ohio and other states in which fiscal issues have opened the door for legislation that reflects political agendas much more far-reaching than what would be required to balance any budget. In Michigan, the process started with Governor Snyder’s presentation of a “Proposal for Educational Reform” (presented in full and in a chart). Next, the Republican majority in the legislature announced their “Guiding Principles” in revamping their state’s system of public education.  The legislature then passed a budget that included massive cuts to school districts, the effects of which are just now beginning to become very painfully apparent.  Simultaneously, the legislature has voted to increase the funding of charter schools and to support the creation of new “cyber” alternatives to conventionally delivered public education.  The legislature also passed bills dramatically curtailing the collective-bargaining rights of public school teachers and restricting the unions’ ability to collect dues.  As if these changes were not enough, legislation has been introduced to make Michigan a “Right to Teach” state. (Further evidence of the potential impact of a Right to Work amendment on Ohio’s unionized teachers and other public employees.) Critics have charged that the cumulative effect of these laws has been to move Michigan a long way towards “privatized” public education. (It should be a rule of thumb that when “reform” is expressed in oxymorons, it should be immediately suspect as double-talk.)