Labor-community power thwarts GOP-corporate agenda

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Ohio. Mississippi. Maine. Arizona. Iowa. New Jersey. These are states where voters clobbered the Republican/corporate power-grab and extremist policies on Election Day, Nov. 8. It was a victory for the 99% over the narrow agenda of the billionaire far-right 1%! And these victories show that the power of coalitions, especially labor-community coalitions, can overcome right-wing extremism and cold corporate cash.

They also show that the American people, when mobilized, reject the far-right agenda of union-busting, racism, immigrant- and gay-bashing, voter suppression and war on women.

In Ohio, after Republican Gov. John Kasich narrowly won the 2010 election, he and his cohorts pushed through a draconian law that stripped collective bargaining rights from firefighters, police, teachers, nurses and other public workers. That meant the people who actually save and improve the lives of Ohioans didn't have a say, for example, in how many firefighters are needed for a call, or what equipment they need in order to do their job.

The labor movement didn't take this assault lying down. They rolled up their sleeves and built a coalition with communities across the state to expose and explain this basic assault on democracy.

And that made all the difference. The law was repealed by an astounding 61% of the voters!

In Mississippi, voters resoundingly defeated, by 58%, a state constitutional amendment that would have said legal personhood begins the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm. The amendment was so extreme and even life-threatening to women that a broad coalition of young people, in particular young women, African Americans and even Republicans, went to the polls to defeat the dangerous initiative. Doctors and scientists joined with pro-choice women's and feminist groups to explain the implications and dangers of the amendment.

In Maine, voters repealed the Republican law that took away Election Day registration. In a historic vote in Arizona, a coalition of immigrant advocates, business leaders, Latinos, Mormons and union members recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona's notorious SB 1070 anti-immigrant law. In Iowa, voters rejected GOP candidates backed by anti-gay hate groups targeting a takeover of the state Senate. The results ensured a pro-marriage-equality majority.

And in New Jersey, voters kept the state's Democratic majorities - and even gained one seat - in the legislature, despite massive campaigning by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. He had boasted Republicans would "make history" Tuesday and even pick up a seat or two. Christie drew the ire of teachers and other public workers with his attack on them and their unions. Anger over the Republican playbook attack on workers was a factor in preserving the Democratic majorities, who pledge to fight the governor's agenda.

Behind each victory for the 99% was a broad and united coalition and an active grassroots campaign. That's the lesson for 2012. To rout the GOP/corporate 1% cabal, it's going to take this kind of 99%, people-powered political action and more.  

The labor and people's movements showed the way in Ohio, the heart of it all.

Photo: Thousands of Ohioans join together to make history by turning in 1.3 million signatures to repeal SB 5. (Ohio AFL-CIO)

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