On Tuesday, John Kasich invited the Akron Roundtable audience to read Senate Bill 5, the overhaul of collective bargaining for public employees. The governor argued, in his appealingly energetic and enthusiastic way, that they would discover the legislation isn’t the attack on organized labor proclaimed by opponents.
Those opponents have engineered a referendum on the bill, state Issue 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot. Part of the governor’s talk was a pitch for Ohio voters to support the legislation at the polls. He stressed that the measure largely involved fairness, struggling taxpayers deserving relief from the increasing burden of the public sector. He has a point. More, many provisions reflect a needed and sensible updating of a law three decades on the books.
Unfortunately, the legislation doesn’t stop there. The bill aims to score partisan triumphs. Republicans in charge of the Statehouse leaped at the opening to clobber organized labor, a powerful ally of the Democrats.
At the Roundtable, the governor championed the “need to work together to fix the problems in this state,” adding: “No more politics. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat. … I don’t care because Ohio is dying and we need to get it healed.” He cited his appointment of Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat and former secretary of state, to the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission.
There are aspects of the governor’s nine months in the job that carry promise, for instance, the reworking of Medicaid, the changes in criminal sentencing and the regional approach to economic development. No more politics? That claim crumbles with an inspection of S.B. 5. Republicans went too far, tainting the productive with a provision that ends the “fair share” requirement in union contracts, allowing workers who are covered by a contract but do not want to join the union to balk at paying dues. This language goes to the heart of organized labor.
So does the elimination of paycheck deductions for union political activities and easing the rules for decertification of a union. These elements have little, if anything, to do with direct savings. They are punches to the gut of an adversary.
The governor wants it both ways. He wants to celebrate his willingness to press hard for what serves the state as a whole — and reap the bounty that would flow narrowly to his party.
It didn’t have to be that way, if Republicans had practiced a degree of restraint. It didn’t help that the legislation was hustled through the Statehouse, the ramifications of, say, eliminating wholly the right to strike given insufficient thought.
At the Roundtable, the governor preached the virtue of shared sacrifice. No doubt, public employee unions must do their part, and, frankly, many have. Those who have gone virtually untouched? The wealthiest Ohioans. So, yes, Ohioans should look carefully at Senate Bill 5, and weigh fully the words and deeds of the governor.