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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘We Are Ohio’ Forces Referendum on GOP Union-Busting

John Nichols’ post, “Democracy is Coming to Ohio: 1.3 Million Voters Force Referendum to Restore Labor Rights” in The Nation does a solid job of updating the popular uprising against GOP union-bashing.
Nichol’s focuses on Ohio, where Republican Governor John Kasich is undoubtedly grateful that his state does not have a recall provision, which would have put his tenure at serious risk. But he can’t be too happy that Ohio voters can repeal legislation he sponsored to eradicate collective bargaining rights for state employees. As Nichols writes:

Opponents of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s push to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights–as part of a national push by newly elected Republican governors to silence opposition to their cuts in funding for public education and services — needed to collect 231,000 valid signatures to force a referendum that would override anti-labor legislation enacted by Kasich and his allies.
That was a tall order. But the labor and community groups that have come together to defend public employees, teachers, schools and services have exceeded it –by more than one million signatures.
With petitions carrying 1,298,301 signatures packed in 1,500 boxes carried by a semi-truck, organizers of the We Are Ohio campaign and thousands of their allies marched to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office in Columbus Wednesday–one day before the deadline–to file the paperwork necessary to force a November vote on overturning Ohio Senate Bill 5 and Kasich’s attack on labor rights.

The Ohio GOP also has cause for concern:

Wednesday’s festive Million Signature March–complete with bagpipes, drum lines and antique fire truck blaring their sirens offered a taste of what is to come in a referendum campaign that labor leaders say will be the most energetic the state has seen in decades–perhaps since the famous 1958 referendum in which historically Republican Ohio rejected an anti-labor “right-to-work” law and swept Democrats into the governorship and other state posts.

Putting the GOP’s nation-wide union-bashing campaign in perspective, Nichols explains:

But the anti-labor push met with fierce opposition, first in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker’s proposed legislation drew mass demonstrations of as many as 150,000 people outside the state capitol in Madison. The demonstrations in Lansing, Indianapolis, Columbus and other capital cities quickly grew in size. But so, too, did the recognition that electoral strategies would need to be coupled with the protests.
In Wisconsin, tens of thousands of signatures were gathered in petition drives that have forced recall elections against six Republican senators who backed Walker’s agenda. Primary elections associated with those recalls will begin July 12, with the runoff elections in August. If three GOP senators are removed (and if three Democratic senators who have been targeted by Republicans retain their seats), control of the state Senate will flip to the Democrats and Walker will no longer have complete control of the governing process.

And putting the ‘We Are Ohio’ campaign in historic perspective, Nichols adds “The Ohio petition drive, which began a statewide phenomenon, has yielded the largest number of signatures ever gathered in the state’s history. In fact, the almost 1.3 million signatures filed Wednesday represents one of the most remarkable examples of petitioning for the redress of grievances–and of popular democracy–in American history.”

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