Connecting the Dots : Gay Marriage and Union-busting

Political Axiom : As Ohio goes in the Electoral College determines the presidency.

Testing the Axiom : In 2004, if Ohio’s 20 Electoral College votes had gone to John Kerry, Kerry would have won 272 to 266. George Bush’s popular vote margin in Ohio was 2% despite Ohio’s declining employment levels … so what was the issue that helped propel Bush to re-election ?

Karl Rove, President Bush’s principal advisor, told reporters at the Republican National
Convention in August 2004 that “to the degree it energizes people who might otherwise not vote,” a ballot measure banning gay marriage “tends to help us.”

Hmmm … a little history here … In early August, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage (OCPM) submitted 575,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State, easily surpassing the 316,888 valid signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and the Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved the measure’s title and two-sentence ballot summary. Issue 1 would amend Section 11 of Article XV of the state constitution, stipulating that “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions” and that the “state and its political subdivision shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” On September 29, the Ohio Secretary of State certified the initiative for placement on the ballot.

It should be noted that Ohio’s legislature had already enacted DOMA laws, so the constitutional amendment was just certifying what the legislature had already established.

All people had to do was go to the polls and vote on Issue 1 … and as long as you are there, you might as well vote in the presidential election.
Ohio results tell the story … turnout across the state’s 88 counties was 8.2 percentage points higher in 2004 than in 2000, and Bush’s vote share increased 2 percentage.
Hmmm … exactly the margin of victory.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, asserted after the election that gay marriage was “the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term.

That was 2004 … let’s fast forward to today and allowing that the Axiom will hold true, what could be on Ohio’s November 2012’s ballot besides the Presidency ?
How about overturning the restriction on collective bargaining rights for 350,000 Ohio teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers ?

Ohio’s Senate has approved legislation that restricts those rights (see this MN PoliticalRoundTable commentary ) for a little background. And at the end of this commentary is an OpEd written by Bill Seitz … a Republican who protested the actions of his party (it is in full, since the online record may soon disappear … it is worth the read.)

The question that is at the heart and soul of Senator Seitz piece is : Why the hurry ? Why now ?

And surely that reason lays in part its impact on the 2012 election.
If the legislation is enacted this year, then the people could quickly obtain valid signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot … and that would be at the next election date … thus, if Governor Kasich signs this legislation, the amendment would be considered as part of the 2011 election … an election that will not most likely not attract that many voters … and that’s a question that they want addressed in 2011 …. Not in 2012 as part of a Presidential Election.

This rush to terminate collective bargaining rights is a lot bigger than most of us probably thought.
The effort to re-write the rules are being done with other elections in mind and based on that, we can all agree with Ohio State Senator Karen Gillmor comment “This is not government at its finest.”

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March 1, 2011

Collective bargaining reform must not overreach


For most, the question’s not whether public sector collective bargaining law needs reform; it’s how best to do it. The 1983 Ohio law creating it hasn’t been materially revised in 27 years. Dire fiscal straits alone compel us to seek reform now.

Senate Bill 5, as proposed by its lone sponsor, went well beyond what Wisconsin’s governor is doing in the Badger State. SB 5 restricts police and fire bargaining; Wisconsin does not. SB 5 mandates all employees to pay 20 percent of healthcare costs; Wisconsin’s bill asks only 12.6 percent. Wisconsin’s bill asks public employees to pay 5% of salary towards their pension; Ohio law already imposes far greater requirements on public employees. SB 5 bars collective bargaining by state and university employees (provisions from which the sponsor is apparently retreating); I ask how repeal equates to reform.
Numerous provisions of this 470 page bill are long overdue:

• Disallowing unelected arbitrators from making binding decisions adversely affecting taxpayers is a public imperative.

• Resetting the management rights button, by eliminating requirements that permissive subjects of bargaining become mandatory future subjects of bargaining merely because of their presence in some previous contract, is a fine idea.

• No longer should management decisions be bargained merely because they “affect” working conditions; this doctrine freezes management flexibility against mid-term changes without union assent.

• The public employer should have the right to communicate directly with employees after presenting its offer to the union, rather than trusting the union leaders to properly inform members of the terms thereof.

• Prioritizing the factors that factfinders and mediators should consider is necessary: The first and primary factor must be on the employer’s ability to pay. We need to impose firm timelines for when bargaining impasse occurs.

• The whole process needs the public transparency that SB 5 creates.

• Tightly defined conditions of fiscal emergency should justify reopening future collective bargaining contracts: The taxpayer’s wallet is not infinite, and the state cannot declare bankruptcy.

However, we must avoid overreach. We can prohibit bargaining over healthcare benefits, as the bill proposes – but only if we amend it to ensure that union members are offered the same options as management offers itself. If we ban bargaining over staffing levels and workplace equipment, we must make an exception for safety services and nurses whose work is ultra-hazardous. I wouldn’t want Cincinnati City Council to leave policemen unprotected and inadequately armed just because they needed more money to construct their trolley. Some level of protection against layoff must be preserved for employees with over 20 years of service, whose entire retirement depends on earning their public pension, and who do not qualify for Social Security or have other retirement assets because they staked their career on the promised pension benefits.

If public employees cannot strike, and if there is no binding arbitration, there must be some way of determining an agreement. The bill is flawed because it says the employees’ only rights in that case are to work under a perpetual wage freeze, with management dictating the outcome. This reduces collective bargaining to a sham. The public employer has no incentive to agree if, by disagreeing, it can unilaterally do what it wants. Let’s be honest: poor management is just as responsible as overzealous unions for the current mess. For example, City Council hired over 100 new police a few years ago (against Chief Streicher’s advice) and now complains its payroll costs have increased too much.

A new version of SB 5 is being prepared in secret. I have no idea of its contents. Above all, I have learned my Tea Party lessons from the Obamacare debate. I’m not going to “pass the bill so we know what’s in it”, as former Speaker Pelosi urged her colleagues to do. Neither will I support a bill without taking time to read and understand it. We should expect no less from Republican majorities than we demanded of Democrat ones.

William J. Seitz of Green Township, a Republican, represents Ohio’s 8th District in the state Senate