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All Eyes on Ohio and Issue 2 Referendum
posted by: Alix | November 07, 2011, 10:42 PM   

What started in February as a battle over budget shortfalls and forced unionism has grown into a full scale ballot referendum in the key swing state of Ohio. The question known as "Issue 2" will ask voters to either accept or reject a sweeping collective bargaining law that Governor John Kasich signed in March, less than three months after his election day. Tomorrow, Ohioans will go to the polls to vote on the referendum, a case study in the near nationwide debate over union power and the sustainability of the current collective bargaining system.

The legislation affects more than 350,000 teachers and other government workers, and in addition to ending forced unionism, sets mandatory health care and pension minimums for unionized government employees, bans public worker strikes, and prohibits basing promotions solely on seniority. The law went further than Wisconsin's equally controversial measure in that it affects both police and firefighters.

While the law aims to correct budget gaps under the current system, the law does not affect bargaining over wages or working conditions. Despite the union-led outrage over preserving their monopolies on government worker paychecks, some groups are calling the law beneficial for teachers and other works that were forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment under former union policies.

Following the heated debate and the law's ultimate passage, a firestorm of big union money and manpower descended on Ohio with the planned referendum campaign. After the Ohio Education Association amassed another $54 per teacher to fight the law through forced dues, the entire labor-backed coalition, We Are Ohio, collectively raised an unprecedented $24 million as of mid-October, a budget far greater than the 2010 Governor's race.

Conversely, Building a Better Ohio, the proponent campaign, has raised just $8 million. Outside groups including FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity and the Virginia-based Alliance for America's Future are also rallying support for the law through media campaigns, mailers, and door to door "get out the vote" efforts but are coming up short on funds.

A recent poll further suggests the law is in serious jeopardy. According to a Quinnipiac University poll on October 25th, Ohio voters favored repeal 57 percent to 32 percent. Despite the numbers, proponents remain undeterred. "Voters clearly sent a message of concern (in 2010) and they're demanding that government get its house in order, and that's the platform John Kasich ran on. This is an effort to try to eliminate government excess and get spending under control," said Building a Better Ohio spokesman Jason Mauk.

After the failed Wisconsin unions recall efforts, this election is considered a "must-win" for big labor. "If the governor of Ohio is able to hold the line on the legislation that was passed, then it would be a very significant setback for... public sector unions in the U.S.," said Lee Adler, a labor professor at Cornell University's New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Whatever the outcome, clearly money and outside influence have played a major factor in rallying votes and swaying opinions in Ohio. After the unsuccessful attempt by Wisconsin union interests to overturn Governor Walker's law, big labor has poured unprecedented resources into keeping Ohio a compulsory state.

What do you think about the referendum campaign and tomorrow's vote?
Comment below.

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