State Issue 2 defeated 61-39

Robin Wasserman, Staff Writer

This Tuesday, public workers and their supporters across Ohio declared a major victory with the 61–39 defeat of the controversial State Issue 2, which would have restricted public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights.

The defeat of Issue 2 is a major victory for the Democratic Party and the labor movement, both of which have fought two statewide campaigns against Senate Bill 5. After Republican Governor John Kasich signed SB-5 into law last March, organizers collected over 900,000 signatures to place SB-5 on the 2010 ballot as Issue 2 before campaigning against the measure.

“It’s amazing how fast we did it,” Professor of Politics Marc Blecher, who helped coordinate various efforts against SB-5, said.

“Within nine months we got [SB-5] reversed. … It was great to see all this outpouring from students.” College junior and co-chair of the Student Labor Action Coalition Lena Amick said, “I feel this renewed faith in the American people. … They recognized when their civil liberties were being unjustly stripped away from under them and stood up and said, ‘Actually, that’s wrong.’”

If passed, Issue 2 would have upheld the controversial SB-5, which limited the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions, among other measures. Backed by Kasich as an effort to balance the state budget, opponents argued that it placed an undue burden on the working class.

College junior and co-chair of the OC Democrats David Fegley said, “Republican members and Kasich have been … spreading this misconception that public employees have not been paying their fair share, when really they’ve been willing to sacrifice.” One of the main strategies of the campaign against Issue 2 was to humanize the workers who would have been affected by the law.

Associate Professor of Politics Michael Parkin explained, “There’s a greater realization that people who are government employees are people we really rely on and know in our communities, who are people just like us, not some distant bureaucrat[s] pushing paper.”

Fegley added, “The important thing to remember is that it’s easy to throw around a phrase without thinking about who that really is. We’re talking about firefighters, police officers, teachers. We rely on them for so many services.”

College junior and President of the OC Republicans and Libertarians Nick Miller offered a different perspective.

“This is a case of emotion versus reason, and emotion won,” he said. “The Republicans did not push the fact that taxes are going to have to go up because of this. … They should’ve framed it that way,” Miller explained.

On campus, SLAC and the OC Democrats have been active in educating students and encouraging them to vote. Last February, when SB-5 was first introduced to the state legislation, the OC Democrats organized a carpool to Columbus to protest. Since then, SLAC has directed various educational events and rallies focusing on SB-5 and then Issue 2, including a National Teach-In for Economic Justice.

“What we were trying to do was build this mass opposition to Issue 2 around campus while at the same time sitting in this broader idea of economic justice and the importance of labor and labor unions. I think that was something that was really exciting and successful about the campaign. People have more of an awareness of collective bargaining,” Amick said. Beyond education, the Ohio electorate’s rejection of anti-union legislation will influence the national conversation surrounding the future of labor.

“More than anything, [the defeat of Issue 2] sends the message that labor unions in Ohio and nationwide aren’t going to go down without a fight,” Fegley said. “SB-5 didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s part of a long string of bills that have been crafted by Republican legislature that are pretty destructive in a variety of ways.”

However, whether this momentum will translate into Democratic victories in 2012 remains to be seen.

Blecher explained, “This is the power of labor unions when they’re mobilized. … This effort set up momentum for 2012, got the machinery moving, got the rust off, got people experience in coming out on the street. It’s a movement and not just another election. … you could see it and you could feel it.”

Parkin, on the other hand, warned against seeing Issue 2’s defeat as only signifying dissatisfaction with Republican policies. “I think it’s a more general [message] of dissatisfaction with government action. It’s not only a message to Republicans to moderate, … it’s for Democrats to moderate as well,” Parkin said.

In addition, many labor activists are disappointed with President Obama, who emphasized his support for unions during his 2008 campaign but remained on the sidelines while similar legislation to Issue 2 was passed in Wisconsin. “Mobilizing against something is relatively easy, but mobilizing for somebody who after three years has disappointed [the labor movement] a number of times is not automatic. … A lot of people who went door to door on Issue 2 really think Obama should do more,” Parkin said.

In addition to Issue 2, Ohio voters rejected State Issue 1, which would have increased the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75. State Issue 3 was approved with 65 percent of the vote, amending the Ohio state constitution to ban the mandatory purchase of health care — a symbolic victory considering the Supremacy Clause.