While the race had been tightening, recent developments have boosted chances that Senate Bill 5, the union-busting measure enacted this year by Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-dominated legislature, will be repealed in the Nov. 8 election. They include a stepped up mobilization by labor and its allies opposed to the law, revulsion at dirty tricks tactics of its supporters and the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread to at least six cities in the state.
The measure appears as Issue 2 on the ballot and early voting began Oct. 5. In a Public Policy Polling survey released Oct. 19, 56 percent of voters reject the Issue, while 36 percent support the law to strip collective bargaining rights from 360,000 public employees in Ohio. While the margin for repeal had been as high as 24 percent, PPP reported the race had closed in August to 11 percent.
In response, We Are Ohio, the labor-community coalition heading the repeal effort, made urgent appeals for volunteers to cover phone banks and canvas voters door-to-door. A strong response has come especially over the past month from thousands of union members and their allies. The unions have also stepped up literature distributions by mail and at work sites.
In addition, unions and others including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, have decorated neighborhoods with a multi-colored array of yard signs. The Cleveland Firefighters have a major mobilization planned for the traditional tailgate parties before this Sunday’s Cleveland Browns game, including bagpipe brigades, literature and football-shaped stickers urging fans to vote no on Issue 2.
Protecting Ohio’s Protectors, a coalition of safety forces, held press conferences earlier in the week to release a study showing that through collective bargaining public employees had made over $1 billion in concessions in the past few years and that they are in no way the cause of the budget crisis alleged by Kasich.
Much has also been made of the deceptive and desperate campaign of Building a Better Ohio, the law’s supporters, who took footage of the elderly Marlene Quinn from a We Are Ohio ad calling for defeat in Issue 2 for an ad implying she supported the law.
In the ad, Quinn said she knew that the ability of firefighters to negotiate safe staffing levels was critical after her son and great granddaughter were saved in a fire. She said she felt “violated” that her words were “stolen and twisted” and demanded an apology, but Kasich said the misuse of the footage was “fine” with him.
This was in line with previous pro-Issue 2 ads aimed at confusing voters on the impact the law would have on public services. The same mindset was displayed by Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, supposedly a deeply religious man, who told a group of Ohio Republicans supporting Issue 2 that if they found anyone opposed to the bill they should “make sure they don’t go vote. Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date. That’s up to you how you creatively get the job done.”
Building a Better Ohio refused to denounce the statement despite appeals from the NAACP and a number of religious leaders that it was a blatant call for vote suppression.
“Huckabee’s disgusting comments show that Building a Better Ohio and its corporate-funded supporters will do anything, even advocate for illegal tactics, to keep Ohioans from voting against Issue 2.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement has opposed Issue 2 from the beginning and has galvanized mass anger at right-wing attacks on working people. Occupations are under way in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown and Cleveland, where occupiers set up a “working group” to help the effort to repeal SB 5.
Photo: Progress Ohio // CC 2.0