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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Union Busters vs. Voters in Ohio

Unfortunately, Wisconsin has no provisions authorizing initiative and referendum in state law. It’s a shame, because polls indicate that Wisconsin voters would shred Governor Walker’s union-busting measure in short order.
In Ohio, however, not only is such a referendum possible, there is very likely going to be one to repeal a GOP-supported measure that would limit public employee collective bargaining and strike rights, as Evan McMorris-Santoro reports in his Talking Points Memo post, “The Next Union Battlefield In Ohio: The Ballot Box.”

As the Ohio state House prepares to take up the controversial collective bargaining and union rights provisions contained in the just-passed state Senate Bill 5, union supporters and Democrats are looking ahead to a battle that will put the legislation in the hands of people they say are on their side: the voters of Ohio.
Though they plan to fight SB 5 tooth-and-nail as it works its way through the Republican-controlled House, leaders of the SB 5 opposition tell TPM that they don’t expect to win there. There are 59 Republicans in the House and just 40 Democrats, meaning there’s little chance for a repeat of the drama seen in the Senate, where SB 5 passed by just one vote.
But, thanks to the eccentricities of Ohio law, passage in the House doesn’t mean SB 5 is guaranteed to go into effect. Though they more than likely can’t stop it in the legislature, the opposition can potentially block its implementation by promising to take it on at the ballot box. That means the fight over SB 5 could extend for months — maybe even all the way to November, 2012.

After Republican Governor Kasich signs the bill into law next week, there will be a 90-day period during which opponents of the union-busting bill will gather 231,147 signatures (6% of the vote total in the 2010 gubernatorial race) to put the referendum invalidating the legislation on the ballot. The referendum could appear on either the 2011 or 2012 ballot, depending on the date the governor signs the bill. Either way, union supporters believe they can win.
If the referendum is held in 2012, it would likely increase turnout among voters who would be inclined to vote Democratic, which could put Ohio’s electoral votes in President Obama’s tally. That would be fitting poetic justice of a high order for union-busting Republicans.

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