Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich delivered his State of the State address in a hostile environment. Some inside the Capitol booed him. Lots of people outside the building demonstrated against him. Someone even rewrote the lyrics of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to turn it into a vaguely threatening anti-Kasich screed (“We Will Stop You”), because that is how we protest in my home state.
As in Wisconsin, the Ohio legislature is proposing to drastically reduce unions’ bargaining abilities, which prompted thousands of protesters to come out in Columbus last month. The city’s protests have had a smaller turnout than Madison’s, and no Michael Moore appearances, but the battle is no less significant. “I just want other states to know what we’re going through,” said my friend, who called me shortly after listening to Kaisch (or, as she calls him, “our big stupid douchebag governor”). We went to Ohio State together; she’s been a public school teacher for eight years.
Here’s what they’re going through: The anti-union Senate Bill 5 barely passed after some shady, last-minute reshuffling of committee members to get it to a vote. SB 5 “severely limits my union’s ability to collectively bargain,” my friend said. “It involves jail times and fines for striking. It takes away employers’ incentive to bargain in good faith. Then you’re just at the mercy of your board. It’s not like just because I’m in a union I’m bullying the board into raises. I’ve taken a zero for the last two years.”
The rhetoric painting union workers as contentious, fabulous fat cats really pisses my friend off. The average Ohio Association of Public School Employee makes a whopping $24,000 a year. She also resents the propaganda about unions being disruptive strike machines. Ohio’s current collective-bargaining law was passed in 1983. The State Employment Relations Board says that in 1978, there were 67 public-sector strikes; in 2008, there were just three.
Kasich called broadly for reforms, but didn’t say much about what exactly he has in mind. It’s not clear, either, what will happen with SB 5, which has gone to a House committee.
“It’s all just political bullshit,” my friend said, part of the “agenda to break down the Democratic Party by dismantling unions. But this happens to be political bullshit that affects my ability to feed my family.”