Ohio Voters Overturn Public Union Restrictions

Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a Republican law restricting the collective bargaining rights of public employees--and also rebuked the health insurance mandate central to ObamaCare.

Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a state law restricting the collective bargaining rights of public employees–and also rebuked the health insurance mandate central to ObamaCare.

AP (“Ohio Voters Reject Republican-Backed Union Limits“):

The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment.

In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. With nearly 95 percent of the votes counted late Tuesday, about 61 percent were to reject the law.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, among the many union leaders who hailed the outcome, said victory was achieved among Democrats and Republicans in urban and rural counties.

“Ohio sent a message to every politician out there: Go in and make war on your employees rather than make jobs with your employees, and you do so at your own peril,” he said.

Kasich congratulated his opponents and said he would spend time contemplating how best to take the state forward.

“I’ve heard their voices, I understand their decision and, frankly, I respect what people have to say in an effort like this,” he said. “And as a result of that, it requires me to take a deep breath, you know, and to spend some time reflecting on what happened here.”

Kasich said he has made creating jobs his priority and he’s beginning to see his policies work.

In a signal of the issue’s national resonance, White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a statement saying President Barack Obama “congratulates the people of Ohio for standing up for workers and defeating efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights, and commends the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other workers who took a stand to defend those rights.”

[…]
The law’s opponents far outnumbered and outspent its defenders. Opponents reported raising $24 million as of mid-October, compared to about $8 million raised by the committee supporting the law, Building a Better Ohio.

Tuesday’s result in the closely divided swing state was expected to resonate from statehouses to the White House ahead of the 2012 presidential election — potentially energizing the labor movement ahead of Obama’s re-election effort.

Ohio residents also voted Tuesday to reject an insurance mandate in Obama’s federal health insurance overhaul. Jeff Longstreth, who managed the successful campaign, said he sees that issue as more telling for the president’s future in the swing state.

“Voters spoke very loudly and very clearly about how they felt about Barack Obama’s proudest legislative accomplishment,” he said.

The mixed result is, well, rather odd. It’s hard to read much into an off-off-off year election in which no major races were on the ballot, which inevitably means very low turnout and only the most motivated voters showing up. (I’m generally in favor of consolidating elections to coincide with national elections and against off-peak contests for that reason.)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board argues, persuasively, that it was a matter of overreach:

In an extraordinarily broad rebuke to Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-run legislature, voters throughout Ohio have decisively rejected Senate Bill 5, the attempt to rewrite the rules for collective bargaining by public employees. Even in many GOP strongholds, this heavy-handed effort to swing the balance of power decisively against unions found so little support that the governor and his allies may be reluctant to reopen the discussion soon.

That would be a mistake.

The difficulties that many communities and school districts face trying to live within their budgets and reform how they do business are not going away. Much like the Big 3 automakers, they need relief from obligations and procedures that are no longer affordable.

If the authors of SB 5 had stuck to economic imperatives — including needed changes in merit pay, mandatory benefit contributions and imbalanced seniority restrictions in layoffs — or if they had made serious outreach to unions early in the process, the bitter and costly campaign that climaxed Tuesday might have been avoided. But once its drafters made SB 5 an all-out assault on the very existence of public employee unions, they alienated thousands of fair-minded Ohioans. A tone-deaf campaign that attacked public employees as overpaid — class warfare, waged by Republicans — only cemented the outcome.

The paper’s Henry Gomez‘s looks ahead to 2012:

Even in an off year, Ohio couldn’t escape the burning spotlight from national media hungry for a juicy election story.  And Tuesday’s repeal of Senate Bill 5 was merely an appetizer. By resoundingly rejecting the Republican-backed push to rewrite labor rules for public employees, Buckeye State voters helped set the table for the 2012 presidential election.

Without question the results will be viewed as a momentum-builder for Democrats nationwide and should encourage President Barack Obama. He carried Ohio by four points in his 2008 Electoral College landslide, but the GOP won control of every state office and the legislature last fall.

Understandably, before Tuesday, Obama likely saw easier paths to victory in other swing states he won three years ago – notably Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico. Now, despite his low approval ratings, Obama can compete for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes by taking advantage of a grass-roots organization that has had months to gel. As appealing as the other states might appear on paper, none offers the head start Democrats have here.

[…]

Republicans, meanwhile, don’t have much time to lick their wounds. If there is any comfort for them today, it is the reminder that their political fortunes can change rather quickly here. ”Looking at 2012, one way or the other, it’s not going to be about Senate Bill 5,” Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine said in an interview last week. “It’s going to be about Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown and the failed economic policies that Barack Obama has brought to bear.”

Indeed, a tactical edge might not be enough for Obama and the Democrats if the nation remains in an economic funk and if Ohio’s unemployment rate remains around 9 percent.

The SB 5 vote “isn’t a harbinger for 2012 because it’s a year away,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said last week when asked how the issue might affect Obama. “Obviously it will be a boost to labor. You get people charged up. But all of these issues are tangential to jobs. If you don’t have a job, you don’t worry about bargaining rights.”

I’m inclined to agree with Sabato. Even aside from the quirky nature of a contest where a couple of ballot initiatives and local races were all that was on the ballot to attract voters, the amount of punditry devoted to analyzing a handful of idiosyncratic races for clues to the next presidential election never fails to amuse. Local elections have their own internal logic that seldom translates to national races–much less those a year later with completely different electoral profiles.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    3 thoughts:
    What it unavoidably says is that the people of Ohio aren’t happy with the 30 year war on the middle class…yes of course it’s class warfare. Attacks on unions by the so-called republicans are one of the key components of the struggle, and inequality is what it has begat.
    The health-care vote was completely symbolic. If Ohio is not happy with the individual mandate they are free to opt-out, just as Oregon and Vermont are working towards.
    You are probably correct that small off year elections have no meaning for the national election just under a year away. But you cannot ignore that Tea Bag Conservatism took several major blows last night.

  2. bandit says:

    Hack gov’t unions can continue to screw taxpayers out of every last penny possible. I fixed your idiocy.

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Not surprising. Obamacare is easy to understand. People don’t want it. Even Zombieland can figure that out. Given a chance they’ll vote against it and overwhelmingly so. Ohio just proved that. The same result would happen, well, pretty much everywhere. Collective bargaining for public sector workers, however, has a lot more moving parts. Zombieland can’t figure it out. When Zombieland gets perplexed the default position is the “Mommy Party” position. It’s been that way for decades. Plus you have to give the unions/Democrats/media in Ohio a tremendous amount of credit. They ran a brutally effective campaign.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    @ Bandit…
    Union members are taxpayers. And evidently…voters.

  5. Hey Norm says:

    @Tsar 2…
    Like I said…if Zombieland doesn’t like Obamacare they can opt out…they just can’t opt out of personal responsibility, which costs responsible people $$$. If you are against personal responsibility…good for you. But the constitution is intended to protect me from those like you…as is the ACA.

  6. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    In another election which may be a harbinger, Montgomery County (PA) elected its Board of Supervisors. This county is in the Philly suburbs, which is a very significant swing area, is the 3rd most populous county in the state, and hasn’t elected a majority of Democrats to the Board in over a century. The Republicans’ campaign argued that voting for the Democrats was a vote for higher taxes. The Democrats’ campaign tied the Republicans to the Tea Party. The results were:

    Rep – Bruce Castor 77,114 23.55%
    Rep – Jenny Brown 75,438 23.04%
    Dem – Josh Shapiro 88,441 27.01%
    Dem – Leslie Richards 86,460 26.40%
    Total 327,453 100.00%

  7. PD Shaw says:

    The polling I’ve seen across Midwestern States indicates support for reducing public employee pay and benefits, requiring public employees to pay more for their benefits, rejection of increasing taxes for public employee compensation and support for greater ability to terminate public employees. BUT general support for the right of public employees to collective bargain. So there is either a disconnect here or there isn’t.

    More likely state government needs to move like Illinois Democrats by piecemeal dismantling of collective bargaining rights, optimizing events on the ground to demonstrate problems with the collective bargaining process, and use Scott Walker as a boogieman to force public union concessions.

  8. george says:

    Tsar: I think your answer to Obama’s program defeat is the same as the answer to the union proposal defeat – people didn’t like either. Accepting one and spinning the other just shows partisanship. And you’ll note that both Democrats and Republicans are doing just that … in one case the people have spoken, in the other they were misled. Is it any wonder so many people don’t take either party seriously – both parties just see what they want to see.

  9. @Moosebreath:

    In another election which may be a harbinger, Montgomery County (PA) elected its Board of Supervisors. This county is in the Philly suburbs, which is a very significant swing area, is the 3rd most populous county in the state, and hasn’t elected a majority of Democrats to the Board in over a century. The Republicans’ campaign argued that voting for the Democrats was a vote for higher taxes.

    I live in Limerick Township, which is part of Mongtgomery County (I’m kinda weird so I ended up splitting my vote for county comissioner and picked Castor and Shapiro), and I’m not sure drawing conclusions for national elections based on our local elections is a good idea, as neither the Republicans or Democrats that run here tend to really fit in the mold of the national parties. Indeed, in the comissioner race, both sides’ main campaign point was that they were going to cut taxes and the other side was secretly planning to raise them.

    It also needs to be noted that last year there was a big scandal involving then county comissioners Jim Matthews (R) and Joe Hoffel (D) that led to a grand jury investigation and both of them dropping out of the race. Castor, while not directly implicated, was the only remaning incumbent and was hurt by the desire to “clean house”.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Stormy,

    I am on the other end of Ridge Pike in Whitemarsh. I am going to disagree with you on these conclusions, as a Republican stronghold like Montgomery had been for decades finally voting for Democrats is pretty significant.

    Moreover, I saw very little of the Democrats saying the Republicans were going to raise taxes. The ads I saw linked Jenny Brown directly to the Tea Party, and noted Castor’s statements that he does not like cooperating with people of opposing views, but left any substance alone (which struck me as a strange set of tactics, but it is hard to argue with success). I also saw a few ads where the Democrats defended their records (especially Richards increasing of Whitemarsh’s debt by putting on the ballot a referendum on buying Erdenheim Farm for open space).

  11. @Stormy Dragon:

    It should also be noted that at the national level, Montgomery County has been pretty soldily democrat for some time (the last republican to win county wide at the national level was Arlen Specter), and it hasn’t voted for a republican president since 1988. Obama won the county by 60% and even in 2010 Sestak beat Toomey handly.

    Like most of the counties around Philly, it was republican in the 70s but has been trending democrat as people flee the city and is likely to continue growing more democrat as time goes by.

  12. @Moosebreath:

    I saw very little of the Democrats saying the Republicans were going to raise taxes.

    As an example, there’s this flyer from the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee:

    http://pics.livejournal.com/stormydragon/pic/0004g6y8.jpg

    Variations on which I have been recieving by mail on a nearly daily basis for the past month.

  13. ponce says:

    So much for Democratic voter apathy.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    Stormy,

    Interesting. I am not saying we didn’t receive that flyer, but I don’t recall it. I certainly did not see anything like that on TV.

  15. @Moosebreath:

    Given how much money was available on both sides in this race, it’s possible they had a different set of fliers for differnt parts of the county. More democrat Whitemarsh gets “OMG! Tea Party!”, more republican Limerick gets “OMG! Tax Increases!”.

    I don’t really watch any network TV, so I can’t say what the televsion ads were like.

  16. Eric Florack says:

    @Hey Norm:

    What it unavoidably says is that the people of Ohio aren’t happy with the 30 year war on the middle class…yes of course it’s class warfare. Attacks on unions by the so-called republicans are one of the key components of the struggle, and inequality is what it has begat.

    Sorry, Norm, but I don’t buy this one. It’s the middle class that’s paying for the union members, who, class for class, tend to make more than the people paying their salary.

  17. Rick Almeida says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I think what’s becoming clear to more and more people is that a) the “middle class” is shrinking quickly and b) the middle class pays far more to maintain benefits for the wealthiest than it does for anyone else.

    Hopefully, the war of those making $40,000 a year against those making $60,000 is drawing to an end.

  18. jan says:

    Michael Barone’s article today, A Few Thoughts on the November 8 Elections, is another perspective in summarizing what happened yesterday.

    But the real bragging rights here belong to the public employee unions and the Democrats. They got actual results: the Kasich reforms will not go into effect. The other side got a theoretical victory: for the federal mandate to buy health insurance, if upheld by the courts, will surely trump any state effort at repeal under the supremacy clause of the Constitution.

    There is an additional charge here that may be laid against Kasich this year, just as it could be made against Schwarzenegger in 2005: political malpractice. They allowed the public employee unions to vastly outraise their side and failed to counter the unions’ ad barrages. They had effective arguments on their side that they simply did not communicate to voters. In 2005 this gave the public employee unions five more years to plunder the private sector in the states where they hold sway.

    Barone added another thought in this piece, saying that Walker of WI had an advantage over Kasich in his reforms, having had a chance of seeing positive results appear after his policy changes were able to go into effect. Kasich, though, never had such an opportunity, as his legislation was stalled until a repeal measure could be voted on, with what has been described as effective ‘scare ads’ by the unions.

    However, there’s a plethora of opinions out there saying that Ohio will reap no fiscal benefits from this ‘win.’ It’s merely been a feather in the cap of Union power. And, it will be the middle class, mostly effected, who will have to continue to support the fiscal excesses of public sector benefit plans during these hard times. And, unfortunately, the ‘wins’ of today may turn out to be the ‘losses’ of tomorrow for this state.

    …only time will tell.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    @ Eric….
    I’m all for forcing hard negotiations on the unions…making them pay more for benefits, loosening up work rules, etc. I applauded the governor of my state when he laid off state cops after they refused to make concessions. But that’s not what Teavangelicals are after. This vote was about eliminating the right to collectively bargain. The Tea Stains are all for protecting rights…as long as they agree with the rights.

  20. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jan…
    I’m willing to bet Walkers advantage is that it was not possible to recall that law by referendum. It’s important to keep in mind that the middle class union members are paying the price of Walkers huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and a massive utility give-away to the Koch Brothers.
    As for fiscal benefits….I’d like to see a link to a credible source on that…given it hadn’t been a fiscal year yet.

  21. Barb Hartwell says:

    Makes you wonder why collective bargaining laws were under attack, these fools cut off their noses to spite their faces. This was a victory for the people because they kept their voices.

  22. David M says:

    it will be the middle class, mostly effected, who will have to continue to support the fiscal excesses of public sector benefit plans during these hard times

    It’s the middle class that’s paying for the union members, who, class for class, tend to make more than the people paying their salary.

    So your reaction to stagnating middle class wages over the last 30 years is to attack one of the few remaining things that actually provides upward pressure on wages? That’s some really warped thinking there.

    The unions and public sector are middle class and the union busting plans are specifically designed to hurt the Democrats and hurt the middle class.

  23. ponce says:

    I’m willing to bet Walkers advantage is that it was not possible to recall that law by referendum.

    But it is possible to recall the Koch Whore who passed the law:

    http://www.unitedwisconsin.com/

  24. Thomas says:

    http://www.leesburg2day.com/news/politics/article_899e1d1c-0ab1-11e1-a2af-001cc4c03286.html#user-comment-area

    So Loudoun County, Virginia (a county that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and is one of the largest, most populated counties in northern Virginia) goes from 5-4 Democrat on the Board of Supervisors to 9-0 Republican! But I guess the media ignored its own prediction that Virginia was a bellweather for 2012.

  25. Hey Norm says:

    The S. Louden County board of Supervisors??? OMG..Obama must be shaking…may e the Supreme Court should just appoint their favorite Republican and we can forgo the whole messy election thing.

  26. anjin-san says:

    @ Hey Norm

    Laugh well you can. Our local mosquitoe abatement district is now solidly Republican. Obama is in serious trouble…

  27. anjin-san says:

    Sorry, Norm, but I don’t buy this one.

    Bithead’s shout out to the plutocrats is “let us amuse you by fighting over the crumbs”…

  28. gVOR08 says:

    Here in Ohio the disconnect between the results on issue 2, collective bargaining, and issue 3, the Obamacare mandate is actually not very surprising. Issue 2 and the underlying SB5 have been huge news here in Ohio virtually since Kasich was elected. A lot of money was spent campaigning on both sides: robocalls, mass mail, yard signs, commercials, constant news coverage. We’ve been buried in it.

    Issue 3 was pretty much a stealth deal. I didn’t personally see any campaigning except one large billboard. It said little, something like ‘YES on 3 for Healthcare Freedom’. Personally, I see the word “freedom” used with no explanation, I assume some Republican is reaching for my wallet. Other people are less cynical. I had to actively search to find out what issue 3 was. Later I got one mailing on the subject from a group in Iowa. There was essentially no opposition. Why would there be, it’s a meaningless gesture. So there was little campaigning and less news coverage. The wording on the ballot was warm and fuzzy. Who wouldn’t vote for freedom? Nobody mentioned that it was your insurance company’s freedom to deny you coverage, nor did they mention that it would survive in court for about five minutes.

  29. @Hey Norm: Are you consuitutionally incapable of arguing with someone without insulting them? Are your arguments so weak that youfeel you have to pump yourself up by denigrating those you disagree with? Fascinating stuff.

  30. Hey Norm says:

    @ Chuck…
    Nice to see you back in these parts.

  31. jan says:

    @Hey Norm:

    I’m willing to bet Walkers advantage is that it was not possible to recall that law by referendum.

    Wisconsin’s advantage was multi-faceted over Ohio: 1) Walker has a higher approval rating than Kasich; 2) WI doesn’t allow statutes to be overturned by a public vote, such as what just happened in Ohio (like you said, Norm; 3) WI law exempted all public safety workers. Ohio’s law overreached and included these workers.

    But, one of the most important advantages has been seeing Walker’s reforms in action, instead of hearing all the naysayers (unions) talk about how bad things will get should such needed reforms pass.

    Finally, the law in Wisconsin has taken effect, and the state’s citizens have seen that it hasn’t affected their services at all. A recent poll by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (my employer) showed that 71 percent of the state’s residents think public schools have either improved or stayed the same following Walker’s reforms. Story after story after story has surfaced showing school districts saving teacher jobs and cutting costs without any negative effect on education. Ohio never got to see the benefits of Kasich’s law.

    A comment under this National Review.com article had an interesting anecdotal perspective that is worthwhile noting:

    Most people in Ohio (I’m a resident) are not fans of the public sector unions. the legislature simply needs to try again and do it in a piece meal fashion. Exempting fire fighters and police won’t be a big deal as these tend to be handled by local municipalities. It’s the state workers and teachers pensions that are the time bomb. We may be in the spot light in the Buckeye, and the Unions may feel good about the outcome but over time these reforms will become more obvious and necessary. It’s still generally a center/right state and the 2012 Election will show this.

  32. Hey Norm says:

    @ anjin-san…
    Republicans in charge of mosquito control? Does that mean they will be attacking dragonflies in order to spread democracy throughout the insect world? Well…whatever they do I bet they run up massive deficits in the process…then propose slashing services for the poor, the sick, and the elderly…in order to preserve mosqiuto free rich people.

  33. Hey Norm says:

    @ Jan…
    I don’t know where you got that info…but considering that the law went into effect in June…and the school year is only a couple months old…I can’t imagine how you would be able to judge this type of thing…unless you have a pre-formed opinion. In the National Reviews case I’d call it a bias.
    I do know that tens of thousands of people have lost jobs….which has to have a serious economic impact.
    In addition state aid to municipalities has been slashed.
    In any case…I do appreciate your vigilant support of the wealthy and their tax breaks…while throwing the middle class under the bus. Keep up the good work.

  34. Eric Florack says:

    I think what’s becoming clear to more and more people is that a) the “middle class” is shrinking quickly and b) the middle class pays far more to maintain benefits for the wealthiest than it does for anyone else.

    Yes, and no. Yes, the middle class is shrinking, and it’s because to an ever increasing degree it’s being asked to shoulder the burden to cover ever increasing spending by government. Why?
    Simple… as Willie Sutton once observed… it’s where the money is. As an example, consider that Alternative Minimum Tax that was supposed to snare only millionaires when it was imposed 40 years ago. It didn’t stay there, did it? Why? Because there simply isn’t enough money to be had there. The war on the middle class not withstanding it’s still by population the largest group of people. Even given the moderate income levels, this group has a much larger income than the rich due and is therefore of far greater value to the tax and spend left when tax time comes around.

    Apparently, this lesson needs to be taught again. (Sigh) OK, leave at the side of the road the arguments about since when is it government’s job to determine who has how much money… leave aside the issue of personal property, , all of that. Even assuming we were able to take the whole of the money the top 5% in this country has… all of it…. No percentage. no cut. Every last penny they have goes into the Federal government… It’s still not going to be nearly enough to pay for Obama’s plans for government entitlements and the demands of union members. (I will not demean work by calling union members workers)

    For some further focus, the popular cry from the leftists in the OWS crowd, is to tax the banks. Wrong again.

    The fact is that the total 2011 pretax profits of the entire US financial sector stands at $426B. That’s almost enough to fund the federal government for 42 days, given it’s current rate of spending.

    Wanna take all those making a profit… and I mean everyone? …the entire of the private sector? Fine. The pretax profits of all private enterprise amounted to $1.88 trillion. That’s enough to cover the federal government’s spending for almost 5 months..

    Am I getting through, yet?

    The real money, you see is in the middle class. Once the ruse of ‘tax the rich’ is done, whose wallet do you suppose the Democrats will have their hands in? If they thought that kinda money was going to be enough, why do you suppsoe they’re already talking about stealing your 401k?

  35. Pete says:

    @ponce: Another grown up comment from Ponce; perhaps you should go to your safe room and meditate. The Republican demons have surrounded your house.

  36. G.A.Phillips says:
  37. Eric Florack says:

    This vote was about eliminating the right to collectively bargain. The Tea Stains are all for protecting rights…as long as they agree with the rights.

    No, they’re about removing the ability… not the right… there is no such right… to extort money from taxpayers. in New York State, they used to call it the “Taylor Law”. If you’re working for the government, you can’t unionize. Why? Because there’s no competition.

    Ponder this; If I don’t like the price I’m paying for the chevy because of the uion wages and work rules that explode costs beyond any reason whatever, I can go across the street to the Kia dealer, or what have you.

    When government workers unionize, the people… the taxpayers have no such recourse. That’s in evidence by the costs in NY state.