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'Issue 2'! Reactionary governor in trouble?... Ohio voters reject union-busting law

In a major defeat for the reactionary policies that have been sweeping the Midwest since the November 2010 election of Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Ohio governor Republican John Kasich suffered a major defeat on November 8, 2011, when voters overwhelmingly rejected SB 5, an Ohio law that would destroy collective bargaining for public workers. Despite attack ads aimed at teachers that were paid for by Citizens United and other conservative groups, voters in Ohio approved "Issue 2," a referendum that dumped the anti-collective bargaining law.

Ohio rally against SB 7, the union busting legislation.Here are some of the news reports:

HUFFINGTON POST EARLY STORY (SEE RICHARD TRUMKA FOLLOWING)

WASHINGTON -- Ohioans overturned a divisive anti-union law on Tuesday, delivering a significant defeat to Republican Gov. John Kasich and a victory to labor unions.

Ohio voters rejected Issue 2, a ballot referendum on Senate Bill 5, a measure that restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 360,000 public employees, among other provisions. Opposition to the legislation inspired large protests from residents around the state this year.

Immediately after the results came in, union officials sent out statements declaring success.

"One message rang loud and clear tonight in Ohio and across the country: those who spend their time scapegoating workers and pushing a partisan agenda will only strengthen the resolve of working people," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "From the very beginning, it’s been clear that Gov. Kasich, and indeed many politicians, were pushing an agenda that was about politics, not about solving our nation’s problems or creating jobs."

"Even after John Kasich locked the doors to democracy and shut out everyday heroes from the Statehouse, in the cold, blister of February -- working people never lost hope. We marched in the spring, circulated petitions in the summer and now, this fall, we delivered a win for all working people by defeating Issue 2, repealing Senate Bill 5," added Becky Williams, president of SEIU District 1199 in Ohio.

Kasich held a press conference shortly after the fate of Issue 2 had been declared, saying it was time for him to "take a deep breath" and figure out what to do next.

One of the videos on TV in Ohio sponsored by Citizens United rang the same teacher-bashing bells as are being rung in Illinois by groups like the Civic Committee, Stand for Children, and Advance Illinois. Right wing ads attack tenure, seniority based pay and job security, and veteran teachers."When I say it is a time to pause, it is right now, on this issue," he said. "The people have spoken clearly. You don't ignore the public. Look, I also have an obligation to lead. I've been leading since the day I took this office, and I'll continue to do that. But part of leading is listening and hearing what people have to say to you."

Kasich signed SB 5 into law on March 31, although the law was put on hold during the referendum campaign. The labor-aligned group We Are Ohio organized the anti-Issue 2 effort, and Building A Better Ohio led the pro-Issue 2 fight.

Tuesday's defeat may have nullified SB 5, but parts of the law may not be dead in the long term. While much of the public attention has centered on the law's ban on collective bargaining for public employees, the law also contained provisions to require public employees to contribute to their health care and pension benefits, along with pushing merit pay for teachers -- proposals that polled well in the run-up to the election.

Ohio State Rep. Mike Foley (D) said the Republican leadership in the legislature may try to pass these proposals one by one when they reconvene in January.

"They could act and take bits and pieces of it and try a new bill on teacher merit pay or health care...or any of the parts of the bill that they think they can get passed," Foley said. "I don't know if they will. We'll have to see. ... I think some of the Republican members on their side of the aisle are going to start looking at their leadership funny if they come back with another collective bargaining bill."

"We certainly are going to be ready for that, if we're still in the same kind of political situation of them controlling the state legislature and governor's office," added AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer. "We're hoping the vote on Tuesday will have demonstrated this is enormously unpopular.

Kasich's spokesman recently said the governor had not been focusing on what-ifs in case the referendum was defeated.

Opposition to Issue 2 brought together a broad coalition of Ohioans -- as well as a significant amount of cash. With just under two weeks to go until Election Day, both sides had already spent more than $38.1 million, with those against Issue 2 outraising their opponents by nearly 4-to-1. The campaign saw a public service announcement by a former astronaut, shady tricks in television ads and a right-wing radio host taking the side of the unions.

While the Occupy movement has been at odds with police in Oakland, Calif., and New York, Issue 2 served as a way to unite the police and Occupy Cleveland members. The local police union said that the officers recognized they had support from the Occupy movement on Issue 2 and sought to work with the protesters. This included identifying at one point which members of the Occupy movement officers arrested. In addition, when police officers asked the Occupy Cleveland group not to use a police memorial plaza for a demonstration, Occupy leaders cooperated.

In the run-up to Tuesday's vote, polls showed that Issue 2 was headed for a decisive defeat.

SB 5 has defined Kasich's first year in the governor's mansion. While the Republican did not mention the issue in his campaign to unseat former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in the 2010 election, his quick embrace of the bill earlier this year made him the law's public face. Kasich ran a statewide campaign to save SB 5 in the run-up to the election.

Political experts in Ohio told The Huffington Post that the governor will not turn into a lame duck just yet, since he has three more years in office and other issues, including economic development and the budget, could be the ones to define him.

Issue 2 was one of three referendums on the Ohio ballot this year. Voters approved Issue 3, a largely symbolic measure that sought to amend the state constitution to prohibit the national health care law from taking effect in Ohio. Written by a conservative-leaning group, the measure sought to influence the coming battle in the U.S. Supreme Court over the future of the national health care law.

Ohio voters also faced Issue 1, a referendum raising the maximum age for judicial applicants from 70 to 75. Normally an under-the-radar referendum subject matter, Issue 1 languished in anonymity in this year's cycle, and was defeated by voters.

A spokesman for the International Association of Firefighters, who was not authorized to speak on the record, hoped Tuesday's victory would be a warning to other conservative governors around the country.

"Kasich ran on a platform of growth, and his first thing is to give tax breaks to the rich, increase the pay of his staff significantly -- while at the same time, he's trying to cut the firefighters and police and teachers and nurses. It's an overreach," he said. "They went a little too far, and what's happening here in Ohio is another step in what happened in Wisconsin."

RICHARD TRUMKA EMAIL TO AFL-CIO PEOPLE:

Dear George,

I'm in Ohio right now, where working families just won an incredible victory.

Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal Senate Bill 5--Gov. John Kasich's attack on middle-class jobs that was designed to destroy collective bargaining rights in Ohio.

We pieced together a short, powerful video summing up the amazing energy that went into this. I hope you'll take a moment to watch:

[http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=6115]

Tonight's victory represents a turning point in our collective work to protect

good jobs, working families and workplace rights. But it's more than that. It's

a long-overdue return to common sense.

From the very beginning of our jobs crisis, anti-worker politicians like Ohio's

Gov. Kasich have used our poor economy to push a cynical political agenda that

favors the richest 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Today, Ohio

voters rejected that agenda.

During this campaign, firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees

were joined by construction workers, bakery workers and all kinds of

private-sector workers. They came together to ensure the survival of the middle

class. And together, we'll keep doing it. Politicians who side with the richest

1 percent will find their radical efforts stopped by working people who want

America to work for everyone.

Watch the energy and dedication that went into this huge victory--and join us: [

http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=6115

].

This is "our" moment, and we won with solidarity. We won because the working

people of Ohio--public and private sector, union and nonunion--stood together.

But the solidarity went even further than that: Volunteers traveled not just

from neighboring Wisconsin--but from states as far away as California and New

York--to help get out the vote. And activists from dozens of states as far away

as Alaska gave up their nights and weekends to call Ohio voters from home.

Solidarity means that when workers anywhere are under attack, we will all do

whatever we can to help. It means we're in it together.

Watch our video. See what solidarity looks like: [ http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=6115

].

I hope you'll celebrate this moment in your own way. But the most important

thing is to find a way to keep your own energy going and growing--so you can be

a part of sustaining and growing our movement for all working people--the 99

percent.

This fight we've taken on and won--and the threats we face going forward--are

about more than Democrats or Republicans, or 2012 battleground states. They are

about good jobs and our right to a voice on the job.

Together, we're building a new kind of politics. A politics that works for the

99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

We've got to start getting ready now to win tomorrow's victories. Over

time--together--we'll build a future that works for working America.

Thank you for being a part of this movement, and for all you do for America's

workers.

In Solidarity,

Richard L. Trumka

President, AFL-CIO

P.S. America is waking up. Here's one big reason we won in Ohio--people can see

that the firefighters, teachers, nurses and snowplow drivers hurt by SB 5 didn't

cause our economic problems. Wall Street did. Ohio voters saw through Senate

Bill 5--they understood it was a plan to make the 99 percent bear the burden of

Wall Street's recklessness--and that it would do nothing to create jobs.

Take a moment to watch the incredible energy that went into this win: [

http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=6115

].



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