Ohio’s SB5, which was introduced by state Sen. Shannon Jones, a Springboro Republican, but championed by Gov. John Kasich, who took office declaring he would change Ohio’s collective bargaining law, went down in flames last night as Issue 2 was defeated 61 percent to 39 percent. This was a huge victory for unions who represent the 360,000 public employees whose powers would have been trodden had the law prevailed. And like so many teachers and public workers who sought to overturn SB5, I could not be more relieved today.
Kasich, on the other hand, can be feeling only defeat after last night’s news. In his speech from the Statehouse he humbly conceded, saying, “It’s clear the people have spoken. I heard their voices. I understand their decision. And frankly, I respect what the people have to say in an effort like this. And as a result of that, it requires me to take a deep breath and to spend some time to reflect on what happened here.”
But Ohio Civil Service Employees Association President Christopher Mabe said, “We want to thank the voters of Ohio who used their citizen’s veto to send a message that this extreme legislation was simply out of touch with the majority of Ohioans. Most Ohioans believe that government runs best when front-line workers have a seat at the table. Tonight, they gave us our seat back.”
The campaign against Issue 2 and its subsequent victory has many wondering whether Kasich will have as much success next year in accomplishing his policy goals.
Ohio State University election law professor Dan Tokaji said, “I think there is no question this is a major black eye for the governor. He made the scaling back of collective bargaining rights really the signature issue of the first part of his administration, so this is a huge blow.”
Republicans knew there might be trouble back in the summer which opponents of SB5 turned in a million valid signatures, a record number for a referendum, qualifying Issue 2 for the ballot.
And the amount of campaign money raised by both sides was further indication that Issue 2 was in trouble. We Are Ohio, the coalition of Democrats and major labor unions, raised more than $30 million for their campaign, sometimes soliciting outside help to raise funds, while Building a Better Ohio only raised about $7.6 million, according to recent campaign finance reports. And We Are Ohio outspent Building a Better Ohio by more than a 3-to-1 margin, running far more commercials to spread their message.
So, does that mean that SB5 is a distant memory? Apparently not, because the October 25 Quinnipiac University poll showed that those polled supported requirements for public workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care costs and to contribute at least 10 percent of their salary toward their pension. And it also showed support for establishing a merit-based pay system, one of the provisions in SB5.
And the number-two ranking Senate Republican, Sen. Keith Faber continues to argue that lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate to pursue collective bargaining reform again; in spite of the intense opposition such reform has created. He said, “If it’s the right thing to do and we need to work on it again, that’s kind of what we get elected to do.” He also added that he noticed in the final weeks of the campaign that “people are opening up to the need for change.”
So, I’m not sure we have heard the end of this sort of reform in the state of Ohio. The rumblings are out there, and we need to remain vigilant. But for right now, I think we deserve to sit back and celebrate our victory.