Election Day Victory in Ohio is Win for All Working Families

 

The American labor movement is celebrating an enormous victory over anti-worker legislation in Ohio after voters in that state resoundingly voted to repeal a bill that stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights. The ballot initiative, known as Issue 2, was defeated on Nov. 8 by a wide margin, with more than 60 percent of voters saying, “No,” to the attacks on Ohio’s middle class.

 

“Last night, Ohio voters delivered a bona fide victory for public sector workers everywhere,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Nov. 9. “After months of advocacy and organizing, the people of Ohio have defeated a law that would have silenced the middle class and curtailed the collective bargaining rights of thousands of teachers, firefighters and police officers. Ohio has made it clear: These dedicated public servants still need a seat at the table to demand fairness, dignity and respect — especially in tough economic times. Through their unions, they have a voice in their workplace, in their future and, most importantly, in our future.”

 

Members of organized labor, including SIU officials, rank-and-file members, and officials and members from Seafarers-affiliated unions including the United Industrial Workers and the Seafarers Entertainment and Allied Trades Union, were an integral part in getting the word out about the initiative.

 

They helped warn of the dangers the loss of collective bargaining rights poses to the state and the country.

 

“Make no mistake, Ohio is at the center of a larger plan to destroy working families, the middle class, and the labor movement,” said SIU President Michael Sacco in a communication to members. “By attempting to eliminate collective bargaining rights from the workers who serve us, nurses and firefighters would’ve been unable to negotiate safe staffing levels or training, and teachers could have no longer been able to negotiate sensible class sizes. I applaud the citizens of Ohio for taking a brave stand against the attacks from the radical right-wing against Ohio’s, and America’s, working people.”

 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who was in Ohio going door-to-door to generate support, agreed.

 

“Tonight’s victory represents a turning point in our collective work to protect good jobs, working families and workplace rights,” said Trumka. “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 one percent at the expense of the 99 percent. Today, Ohio voters rejected that agenda.”

 

Issue 2 was created in response to Ohio Senate Bill 5 (SB5). Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was elected in 2010, rode the anti-worker and anti-union wave that followed those elections in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and others. Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed a plan to attack middle-class families in his state, Kasich and his allies introduced SB5 which, among other things, eliminated collective bargaining rights for the state’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees.

 

Following public outrage, several groups were formed to take action against the bill and restore rights to Ohio’s workers. We Are Ohio, a group made up of civic, religious, community, and labor organizations, led the charge against Kasich and SB5 by circulating a petition that would put SB5 up to a public vote. The petition ended up with more than one million signatures, well above the number needed to put Issue 2 on the ballot.

 

After a strong push by We Are Ohio and other groups, voters in Ohio chose to repeal SB5 by a 61.3 percent to 38.7 percent margin.

 

The fight against SB5 became about more than just reestablishing hard-fought rights for public sector workers, according to pundits, labor officials and others. For many, the struggle to repeal SB5 was about the future of the middle class in America, the role of organized labor, and the importance of workers’ rights in this country. Some see the results as an affirmation of the importance that unions play in the lives of America’s working class.

 

“In my time as labor secretary, I’ve seen firsthand time and time again how unions make remarkable contributions to the strength and prosperity of our nation,” said Solis. “In workplaces across the country, collective bargaining is helping businesses improve their bottom line, providing tax payers with high-quality services, making workplaces safer and more productive, and ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to make it into the middle class.”

 

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