Thursday, March 21, 2013


One of the things that the SCPR has heard over the years is that unions are good to support Democrats for public office.  However, once elected, the elected officials tend to forget who helped to get them there.

On Tuesday evening the SCPR took in an information session that the Stark County-based Hall of Fame AFL-CIO (Dan Scuiry, president) sponsored event designed to prepare Stark County unionists for an expected political assault on their current legal right to have what's known as a "union shop" (meaning every worker must belong to and pay union dues).

About 25 interested persons were present on Tuesday.  Most of these folks were work-a-day union members and for only 25 of them to show up is very underwhelming in and of itself.

Among them was only one elected official; namely, Randy Gonzalez who is Jackson Township's fiscal officer and beyond that the Stark County Democratic Party chairman.

All one has to do is comb through the campaign finance reports of all the many Democrats who hold office in Stark at the county level and also in Stark's cities, villages and townships and, in some instances, even at the board of education level to understand the magnitude of the union movement investment (?) in electing Democrats.

So it is truly amazing that only one Stark County-based elected official showed up at the meeting.  For if the unions lose this fight, then their financial ability to support Democratic candidates in the future will be severely cramped.  And such is likely the true motivation of those who are behind the effort.

One impressive "show-up" at the meeting was Joyce Healy-Abrams .  Joyce ran against Republican Bob Gibbs in the 7th Congressional District which includes the core of Stark County.

This raises the question: Is Joyce up for another try for this seat in 2014?

A group known as Ohioans for Workplace Freedom [OWF] (LINK to a website that endeavors to describe OWF) is busy collecting signatures to place on the ballot a constitutional amendment that likely will read something like this:

No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment:

(A) to resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;

(B) to become or remain a member of a labor organization;

(C) to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;

(D) to pay to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or a pro-rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges regularly required of members of a labor organization; 


(E) to be recommended, approved, referred, or cleared by or through a labor organization

The impending action directed at organized labor is not the first fight that organized labor has fought for its viability since the Republican John Kasich administration has taken over in Columbus.

In 2011 Ohio's public unions were the butts of an effort by the Republican supermajority controlled Ohio General Assembly (at the behest of Governor Kasich) through its passage of Senate Bill 5 to curtail bargaining rights of unions on behalf of public employees.

In November, the unions put on a legislative referendum issue on the ballot which resulted in the repeal of the bill.

Stark Countians (a no vote was for repeal) voted by a nearly 30,000 vote plurality to repeal SB 5.

Before the 2011 challenge to unionism, it was 1958 that the unions had to fight to preserve their "union shops."

In William Hershey['s]: Echoes of 1958 in the Issue 2 battle, October 31, 2011, is an apt description:
Back in 1958, two Republican icons, U.S. Sen. John Bricker, a former governor and state attorney general, and Ray C. Bliss, the Akron insurance man who was Ohio GOP chairman, to no avail, warned other Republicans, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and related business interests of the perils of political overreach.

They ignored the advice.

Voters crushed the right-to-work issue with 63 percent of the vote.
But 1958 is not 2013.

There has been a resurgence of anti-union sentiment in the country and with union membership being down dramatically in the country and in Ohio, the OWF effort is being taken as life threatening by organized labor.

The SCPR's take on Stark's Democratic elected officials posture during the SB 5/State Issue 2 fight is that they were by and large right in step with the public unions even though in many cases these very officials have negotiating responsibilities for the public interest vis-a-vis those unions.

But will they be there on the so called Right to Work issue?

As pointed out by Scuiry and Kathleen Kelly-Calcei (an Ohio AFL-CIO official) at yesterday's meeting, the expressions in and of themselves - Right to Work/Workplace Freedom - have appeal to many, union/non-union alike.  So much so that union members have been lured into signing the OWF petition unawares. And polling indications are that merely given the expression "Workplace Freedom," a typical voter including union members themselves will be prone to vote for a constitutional amendment to prohibit "union shops" in Ohio.

Of course, the union leadership position is that when one digs beneath the expression that Right to Work, Workplace Freedom and the like,  an thoroughgoing analysis reveals the proposed amendment to be "unfair, unsafe and unnecessary" (the union's slogan for the upcoming campaign).

It could be that there was not very good coordination between Scuiry, Kelly-Calcei and Gonzalez to get Stark County Democratic elected officials out for yesterday meeting.

More likely, the SCPR believes, is that some of these folks are actually buying into the idea that Right to Work is a good idea.

If such is the case, the unions have a lot of educating and cudgeling to do a la  "don't come to us for campaign workers and financial contributions if you can't support us in our hour of need."

Readers can be sure that the OWF Right to Work effort will not be a repeat of the 1958 drubbing the issue took.  It is likely to be a "nip and tuck" fight as to whom will emerge the winner on the issue.

The Report believes that if Ohio unions are to survive as we know them, a critical factor will be having Democratic elected officials to stand front and center with them in the battle to come.

If the Tuesday evening Hall of Fame AFL-CIO sponsored meeting is a harbinger of the level of support on the part of these officials, then one has to think that it is likely that Ohio will follow Michigan who became a Right to Work state on December 11, 2012.

Here is a "highlights" video of Kelly-Calcei and Scuiry presenting at Tuesday's meeting.

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