Issue 2 Post-Mortem, Ohio Pre-Mortem

Though the Wisconsin union circus produced widespread union-reform fatigue, you might be wondering what went wrong with Issue 2 in Ohio. As an Ohio conservative who happened to start researching government unions a few months before the General Assembly tackled reform, here’s my educated guess!

Executive summary: The unions spent several boatloads on dishonest class warfare, and Ohio voters failed to see through it.

First, some theories I don’t subscribe to. With the future of Issue 2 looking bleak leading up to yesterday, there have been rumblings that Governor Kasich and/or the Ohio Republican Party backed away from Issue 2 for fear of getting egg on their faces. I’ve seen no indication this is true.

A fairer guess is that including police and firefighters doomed Senate Bill 5; I hesitate to jump to this conclusion, if for no other reason than I advised excluding police and firefighters. It’s worth noting that police and firefighters figured heavily into the union smear campaign, but the bill’s reforms would have been assailed by unions of all stripes regardless of who was affected.

Perhaps the worst explanation – popular with that special brand of Ohioan whose motto is, “I’m a lifelong Republican, but” – insists Senate Bill 5 was an overreach. Ohio’s existing government union law isn’t a little broken; it’s completely broken. Republicans attempted to reform the Democrats’ 1983 bill in a single shot rather than spend the next 3 years fighting with unions. Blaming Issue 2’s defeat on this calculation misses the bigger picture.

What does the bigger picture look like?

Out-of-state union donations, grossly understated by Ohio media, far exceeded the “Yes on 2” campaign’s entire budget. The Ohio Education Association (OEA), a despicable band of hypocrites whose average pay in 2010 was more than $95,000, took an extra $54 from every member to kill Senate Bill 5. OEA alone dumped more than $5.8 million into “We Are Ohio.”

Did the unions spend $30 million exposing an ill-advised portion of Senate Bill 5, or pushing some compelling argument about the need for powerful public unions? Hah! The unions spent more than $800,000 collecting signatures for the referendum; bragging that this constituted “grassroots” support was the most honest aspect of their campaign.

“We Are Ohio” claimed passing Issue 2 would mean fewer firefighters and nurses, leaving Ohio houses to burn and patients to perish. They released a radio ad saying Issue 2 would “take us back to the days of Jim Crow,” misrepresenting at every turn the effort to limit union power as an attack on Ohio’s middle class. They lied that Republican politicians exploited a “loophole” in the bill, though elected officials have never been subject to collective bargaining. They insisted local budgets were dandy before Kasich’s election.

Even without spending unprecedented amounts to mislead Ohio’s electorate, unions are built for fighting reform; union bosses become millionaires on the strength of their class warfare. In my opinion, Issue 2 came down to two questions:

  1. How many Ohio government employees see through the Progressive narrative shoved down their throats courtesy of their mandatory dues?
  2. How many Ohio taxpayers with friends & family in public work think for themselves when told Governor Kasich is out to steal workers’ benefits and punch their babies?

OEA & Co. don’t have to lumber into a defensive stance when their stranglehold is threatened. They just keep doing what they do every day – painting themselves as victims and taxpayers as villains. Yesterday it worked, to the detriment of everyone except the union bosses.

Sadly, a majority of Ohio voters were guilted into ignoring fiscal reality. In return for killing Issue 2, Ohio can expect:

  • More tax hikes than would have been necessary with Senate Bill 5
  • More layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police than would have been necessary with Senate Bill 5
  • More service cuts than would have been necessary with Senate Bill 5
  • None of Senate Bill 5’s drop-dead obvious reforms to benefits & automatic pay hikes
  • More lost House seats as employers and citizens flee

Those who voted No on Issue 2 have guaranteed the results they were told their votes would prevent. This is bad news for anyone who doesn’t get rich from the government union racket, especially the thousands of young public workers whose jobs will be sacrificed on the altar of union demands.

Cross-posted from Big Government.

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