Every time a Democratic Party leader, such as Mahoning County Chairman David Betras, issues a caustic press release accusing Republican Gov. John Kasich of being anti-worker, the image that comes to mind is of a mosquito nibbling at an elephant’s behind. The elephant doesn’t feel a thing, and the mosquito is invariably blown away. The criticism from the Democrats makes no difference to Kasich because he was elected in November on a platform of reducing the size and cost of state government — which is exactly what he is doing.
With a solid Republican majority in the House and Senate and Republicans controlling all the administrative offices and the Supreme Court, the governor has taken a “torpedoes be damned, full speed ahead” approach.
Kasich, with the backing of the GOP legislative leadership, pushed through the privatization of economic development, and now has set his sights on state workers.
Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining for state employees, end binding arbitration for police and firefighters and make major changes in bargaining for teachers and local government employees. Anyone who paid any attention to last year’s election for governor would have known this was coming.
Indeed, on Nov. 14, just days after the general election, the column in this space carried the headline, “Dear public employees: Be afraid.”
The column contained these paragraphs:
“Kasich, who was strongly supported by business groups, had said during the campaign that he wanted to re-examine Ohio’s collective bargaining law, passed in 1983, that gives public employees the right to bargain, seek arbitration and to strike. Only safety forces are prohibited from striking.
“There also is chatter in Columbus about looking at whether Ohio could become more competitive as a right-to-work state.”
During the campaign, Kasich was surprisingly honest about what he intended to do to fill an $8 billion hole in the biennium budget — without raising taxes. Everything would be on the table, he said, including education funding — state colleges and universities and even kindergarten through high school — which would take a major hit. Social service agencies, libraries and programs for the poor would be reviewed.
And yet, there are reports that Kasich, who enjoyed strong backing from an energized Republican Party in Ohio and the very active and vocal tea party, had traditional Democratic voters casting ballots him. There’s talk that Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who sought a second four-year term, was able to grab only 40 percent of the votes of those who identified themselves as teachers. Why? A cynic might suggest that it’s because Republicans indicated during the campaign that the number of snow days would be increased from three to five.
And yet today, teachers are bemoaning the fact that the Republicans in Columbus want to prevent them from striking and want school assignments and layoffs to be based on merit, rather than seniority.
Likewise, strong Democratic counties like Mahoning and Trumbull failed to turn out the vote for Strickland, who lost the election by a sliver.
During the campaign, one prominent local labor leader who had canvassed union homes conceded that he was having a difficult time persuading his members to turn out on election day, let alone do the other traditional things labor does prior to an election, such as manning phone banks.
Too many Democrats voted for Kasich or sat on their hands, and now they are reaping what they sowed.
Policemen and firefighters, school teachers and college professors, prison guards and social workers should answer this question: Did you think Kasich was joking when he said that government was the problem?
The governor has a very basic view of the world: Government needs to streamline the way business has in this national economic recession.
And since most of the operating budgets of governments at all levels go for salaries and benefits, public employees are the targets.
The people of Ohio saw what Kasich was selling — an end to public sector employees’ greed — and they bought it.
That’s why he doesn’t care about criticism from the minority party.