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Will unions party like it’s 2010 or 2011?

Published: Sun, October 28, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Last November, Ohio’s public and private sector unions flexed their political muscles and stopped a collective bargaining reform law from taking effect. The defeat of State Issue 2, which was designed to kill Senate Bill 5, was a major setback for Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly. It was a significant victory for labor.

By contrast, in the November 2010 general election, union members in heavily Democratic regions like the Mahoning Valley failed to show up in sufficient numbers to give Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland the margin he needed to win a second four-year term.

The result was a takeover by Republicans of every statewide office and the Legislature.

Thus the question: Will President Obama be the beneficiary of the unions’ political power that was on display last year, or will he suffer the same fate as Strickland?

To be sure, the turnout this year will surpass the 49.22 percent of the registered voters who went to the polls in 2010. But, whether the union members follow their leaders and vote for the president on Nov. 6 remains a great mystery.

The election two years ago illustrated the growing disenchantment with Obama on the part of traditional Democratic voters: blue-collar workers (mostly white males) and teachers.


A long-time union leader in the Mahoning Valley provided some insight into what occurred:

A week before the November 2010 election, he had gone door-to-door to urge his members to go to the polls and vote for Strickland and other Democrats on the ballot. The reaction from a significant number led him to believe that the Democratic ticket was in trouble. He wasn’t wrong.

But what surprised the union leader more than anything else was the virulent opposition to Obama.

Why was he surprised? Because these were workers at General Motors’ Lordstown plant who owed their jobs to the president.

But it wasn’t just the factory workers who turned their backs on a governor who had worked with the Obama administration to ensure that the auto industry in Ohio remained strong.

Ohio’s teachers, many of whom would have been unemployed had Obama and the Democrats not come up with the $787 billion stimulus program, failed to show their appreciation. The GOP has made the stimulus a major campaign issue — despite the fact that Republican members of Congress have secured hundreds of millions of dollars for their districts.

The hypocrisy was detailed in last week’s column.

As for the schoolteachers, it has been said that half of those who went to the polls in 2010 ignored the fact that the Democrats had gone to bat for them and voted for Kasich and the rest of the Republican ticket.

But like the auto workers at GM Lordstown plant and other unionists, the teachers soon came to regret their political backstabbing.

Last year, with the GOP firmly in control in Columbus, Kasich and company rammed through Senate Bill 5, an assault on public employees unions. It was designed to strip government workers of many of the collective bargaining rights they had enjoyed for decades.

The unions, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, launched a petition drive to give Ohioans the chance to decide whether SB5, which was signed into law by the governor, should remain on the books.

The campaign was a stunning success: 2,202,404 Ohioans voted against the collective bargaining reform law; 1,373,724 for it.

Big-time debt

The unions, especially in the Mahoning Valley, have a big-time debt to pay the Democrats.

They gambled by either staying home in 2010 or supporting the Republicans and learned a valuable political lesson.

Monday’s visit to the Valley by the president and one of his most important allies in this election, former President Bill Clinton, is an opportunity for unionists to do some soul searching. If they are turned off by Obama, they should certainly pay attention to Clinton, who during his eight years in office had labor’s back.

And if they are under any illusions that a Romney presidency won’t be so bad, the unions should look at what is transpiring in Columbus. On the agenda next year: A right-to-work bill.


1theotherside(333 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Actions always speak louder than words so labor knows full well who has their back and who doesn't as a result of Senate Bill 5. It was a lesson well learned and it won't be forgotten. Not only will labor remember SB5 this November, but will keep a long memory in place for November 2014 when the real payback occurs and Kasich is tossed out of the (his) governor's mansion because of his support of SB5. Just watch how many statehouse seats change hands this cycle. And if the tea party of no repubs lose a majority in the house or senate, forget about a right to work law in Ohio. The right to collective bargaining, no matter how much reform the unions need, is the over-arching issue. It isn't so much that union members love their unions as much as it is important for union members, and non-union members, that collective bargaining be protected to secure the rights of all workers in the work place, both in the public and private workplace.

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2chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Bertrum favors voters actings as automatons (merely towing the union, party line) and government providing stimulus money to cure all the nation's woes. He fails to recognize the ever burdgeoning deficit the possible 2nd Obama administration would incur ($20 trillion). The will cripple our country worse than the Great depression

I have not read one article on Solyndra or A123 bankruptcy involving taxpayer money. Why were these monies subordinated to funds of other lenders? Only the taxpayer will lose.

I have not read one article about Obama's debacle in Bengzhai, ie his administration's failure to provide military assistance to save the 4 dead in Libya.

Bertrum it is clear you are rooting for Obama, only you have moved from the sidelines onto the field as a a "political playa.'

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3candystriper(575 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

unions represent full time employment...the jobs that are available are part time

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4Education_Voter(858 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The only power working people have is in strength of numbers. If their leaders cannot get them to deliver on an endorsement, then quite simply, politicians will lose interest in workers' interest.
Americans today seem to have little notion of how to support their peers for the benefit of everyone.
As for other groups pulling them away from their own interests...
you will be kicking yourself if you follow their advice, just as Republican-voting teachers are kicking themselves today.
When you are out of a job, and your benefits are reduced what is your pastor going to offer you? A spaghetti dinner? How will your white-supremicist buddies going to pump up your ego when you are the one on the street corner?

Teachers suffering losses under Kasich today tell me they voted for him because he was against abortion rights. They ignored the facts that there wasn't a single abortion provider for counties around them. What effect would an Ohio governor have on abortion rights anyway?

Vote in your own interest, workers. That's what Wall Street, Mr. Romney's peers, do.

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