As Appeared in Cincinnati Enquirer
Carolyn Park is an executive board member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 232, representing employees of the Cincinnati Public School system.
Working people have taken a beating in recent years. Our paychecks aren’t keeping up with costs that keep climbing. It’s getting harder to find good jobs that offer a living wage and benefits. Wealthy CEOs, corporations and politicians have manipulated the rules in their own favor, and the rest of us are falling behind.
Ohioans have had enough with the failed policies and empty rhetoric that got us here. And we are starting to do something about it.
Here in Ohio, a broad coalition of working people is mobilizing against yet another attack on collective bargaining. Even though “right to work” has failed repeatedly in the past, Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, is pushing a new bill in the statehouse. It’s an effort to keep middle-class Ohioans from speaking up together for wages and benefits that can sustain our families.
This is clearly an idea that should be kicked to the curb, as it was in several states earlier this year and as it was when Ohio voters rejected the same scheme by a 2-1 margin in 2011. More and more, the tide is turning against this brand of corporate politics all over the country.
In September, the Missouri Legislature upheld Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a so-called right-to-work measure, which had been a top priority for out of state, big money special interests, as well as some state house leaders. Right-to-work laws make it harder for working people to band together on the job and result in lower wages for all working people, whether they are in a union or not.
The working families who stand to lose when anti-worker legislation is on the table aren’t a special interest, and they don’t belong to one party. They’re ordinary Americans who live in every city and voting district. Lawmakers in Missouri chose to listen to their constituents over outside special interests, and a bipartisan coalition stood with working families as they defeated the bill and upheld the governor’s veto.
In the past year, citizens rejected similar legislation in Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia and Illinois. Last fall, anti-worker measures failed to make the ballot in a number of states, including Ohio. A proposal to seriously limit workplace rights did make the ballot in Anchorage, Alaska, where it was roundly defeated by voters.
And now Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who staked his entire political career on attacking union members and working families, has fallen on his face. Only a few days after doubling down on an extremist anti-worker platform as part of his presidential bid, he bowed out of the race. He was polling favorably with less than one-half of one percent of voters.
It turns out that most people understand that strong unions make for a strong middle class. The majority of Americans – including nearly half of registered Republicans – hold a positive opinion of the labor movement. In an economy where wealthy corporations and CEOs are calling the shots while many ordinary people feel stuck, unions are a path forward.
But corporations and CEOs are still finding new ways to manipulate the rules in their favor by trying to make it even harder for working people like teachers and firefighters to come together, speak up, and get ahead. And if they can’t fight us in public, they’ll go behind the scenes.
In the coming months, the Supreme Court will hear a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. If the special interests backing this case get their way, they will effectively make all public service jobs “right to work” – hurting paychecks for all working families and public services for communities nationwide.
It’s time politicians here in Ohio and in Washington, D.C., got the message: Americans are tired of policies that benefit the wealthy few at the expense of everybody else. We are ready for something better. And we vote.