I caught the public employee union reform bug in 2010, after stumbling across abuses in the Franklin County Clerk of Courts office. As fate would have it, the Ohio General Assembly passed public-sector union reform package Senate Bill 5 several months after I started researching the topic.
During the 2011 referendum against SB5, only a few right-of-center policy analysts bothered to push back against the $40 million smear campaign waged by union front group “We Are Ohio.” I was happy to spend my free time fighting alongside Matt Mayer, Greg Lawson, and… almost no one else.
Although the hapless pro-SB5 “Building a Better Ohio” campaign proved to be primarily a face-saving effort for John Kasich’s 2016 presidential run, the U.S. Supreme Court has since freed public employees nationwide from the burden of coerced union fees.
For the sake of posterity, you can find a summary below, or review a complete archive of my Senate Bill 5 work.
The Price of Government Union Power
Ohio’s government unions have a privileged status that comes at taxpayer expense. They’ll say and do just about anything to maintain power, while claiming to be a bipartisan coalition of unappreciated serfs.
Have you noticed the opponents of union reform rely exclusively on emotion and never cite specifics? Here are some of the allegedly hateful changes Issue 2 would have put in place:
- Issue 2 replaces automatic step increases with merit pay for public workers.
- Issue 2 asks all government employees to pay 10% of their pension costs and 15% of their health insurance costs.
- Issue 2 ends forced payment of “fair-share” fees for government workers who don’t want to join a union.
- Issue 2 puts a stop to last-in, first-out firing policies, requiring considerations other than tenure when making layoffs.
- Issue 2 does not affect bargaining over wages or working conditions
Ohio’s Broken Status Quo
Our existing government union law makes it far too easy for union bosses to squeeze local taxpayers. As a result, expect huge tax increases or widespread layoffs now that Issue 2 has failed. Take a look at the per-resident school district deficits forecast in October 2010; the problem existed long before Governor Kasich took office.
- 458 districts projected deficits greater than $100 per resident
- 260 districts projected deficits greater than $500 per resident
- 59 districts projected deficits greater than $1,000 per resident
- 17 districts projected deficits greater than $1,500 per resident
For specific district deficits, see the numbers and source data for yourself:
We Are Ohio Funding
By October 2011, I had demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that “We Are Ohio” – the “citizen-driven, community-based, bipartisan coalition” spending millions to overturn SB5, was a union front group.
Naturally, Ohio’s press described the organization as simply “union-backed” or “pro-union,” but campaign funding that had been disclosed by the time of the referendum vote showed that nearly all of We Are Ohio’s support came directly from union bosses (and roughly half of it came from out of state).
After SB5 was overturned, We Are Ohio was converted to a 501(c)(4) nonprofit to campaign against labor reforms such as making Ohio a right-to-work state. I continued debunking the group’s dishonest branding and rhetoric through 2013.
Crazed Union Boss Rhetoric; Even Crazier Compensation
Union bosses make a living turning public employees against the public, and they don’t like it when taxpayers complain about footing the bill. In the Ohio Education Association alone, dozens of union employees take more than six figures per year from public workers!
Issue 2 Racists Anonymous
Do you support government union reform? Supporting government union reform means you’re a racist, according to We Are Ohio’s wildly dishonest smear campaign.
Not to worry; you aren’t alone. If you’ve recently learned from Ohio’s public union bosses that you’re a minority-hating bigot because you expect public employees to answer to the public, Issue 2 Racists Anonymous is for you:
Here are the Dispatch quotes for the first and second We Are Ohio TV spots, as well as the citation from We Are Ohio’s helpful “Jim Crow” radio ad.
Union Bosses Are the Best! Union Staff Who Say Otherwise, Prepare to be Silenced
According to We Are Ohio, only the cooperation experts of the Ohio Education Association (OEA) can make our school districts work. That’s why OEA needs enormous negotiating power, whatever the cost!
Never mind that OEA’s management is so incompetent, the union’s employees went on strike just last summer. Never mind that, over the past 2 years, OEA employees have had all sorts of negative things to say about their bosses. Disregard union attacks against teachers who speak out of turn, and union mistreatment of retirees. You could find these complaints on an official OEA staff blog… until it was shut down after I started publicizing its content.
Lest photos from the September 2010 strike — photos that include union signs calling union officials “scabs” and encouraging them to kill themselves — at OEA headquarters get the same treatment, I’ve saved backups here:
Feel the solidarity!
Union Talking Points, Dulled to Nothing
If the past few resources aren’t enough to convince you, don’t worry. We Are Ohio and their leftist enablers have been repeating the same hacky lines since winter, and I’ve enjoyed stepping on all of them!
Here’s a (relatively) serious list, from an early August post:
Issue 2 will devastate Ohio’s economy by stealing pay from government workers!
Senate Bill 5 doesn’t take away bargaining for wages, and this argument relies on a complete ignorance of economics. Do you believe money can be spent or invested without first being taken from taxpayers? If so, you’re too smart for the union bosses, and their chief talking point crumbles.
Issue 2 will make police and firefighters less safe!
This shameless scare tactic suddenly became popular when polling indicated most of Senate Bill 5 resonates with Ohio voters despite months of union distortion. It remains entirely untrue, as Senate Bill 5 does not affect bargaining over safety equipment.
Issue 2 is an attack on the middle class by greedy special interests!
Wrong in so many ways. Senate Bill 5 protects the jobs of government workers – a slim portion of Ohio’s workforce – by freeing school districts and local governments from unsustainable health and pension costs. If you think the unions actually care about workers, think again.
Issue 2 is fueled by envy! Why not increase everyone’s benefits instead of robbing government workers?!
More proof leftists can’t comprehend the word “growth,” and view the economy as a static pie from which government should dole out slices as politicians see fit. Senate Bill 5 will allow local leaders to focus on sustainable budgets instead of unaffordable union demands. This, in turn, will prevent tax hikes, making it easier for businesses to create more jobs and more wealth.
Issue 2 will drive the best teachers and government workers out of Ohio!
This one’s actually funny, if you remember the unions also insist merit pay is a terrible idea because teachers and government workers aren’t motivated by compensation like everyone else on the planet. Given unemployment rates throughout Ohio and the nation, no one really expects mass turnover based on a slight adjustment in health and pension benefits – especially when compared to benefits in private industry.
And more, from a post at the end of May:
- Reducing public employee pay will cripple the economy, but taking more from taxpayers will have no such effect.
- Corporations employing hundreds of thousands shouldn’t pay their CEOs seven-figure salaries from earnings, but union bosses employing a couple hundred activists deserve six-figure salaries from member dues.
- Public union members are the middle class, even though they make up a tiny percentage of the working population.
- Government employees are more educated than the average worker, so they deserve better pay – regardless of how much benefit they provide to the public.
- Government unions create good jobs… by demanding unsustainable pay which leads to higher taxes and fewer jobs.
- Public union members love paying dues, but making payment of union dues optional is a political attack.
- Government union reps speak for all their members, even when preaching far-left politics and financing far-left politicians.
- Government union employees are paid six figures even as dues-paying members are axed, but government unions are selfless organizations in command of the moral high ground.
- Unions and the Democratic Party are attached at the hip, but forced unionization for government workers keeps politics out of the workplace.
- Union members are wonderful, underpaid, unappreciated – and incapable of emailing a local newspaper or TV station if there’s a problem at work their supervisors won’t address.
- Government unions are effective and innovative, but expecting public worker compensation to be based on merit is madness!
- Wealthy CEOs should be punished for their greed, but wealthy union bosses and the wealthy politicians they fund are heroes of the middle class.