Here’s who the anti-union jihad of the GOP and the glibertarians is targeting:
Jodi and Ralph Taylor are public workers whose jobs as a janitor and a sewer manager cover life’s basics. They have moved out of a trailer into a house, do not have to rely on food stamps and sometimes even splurge for the spicy wing specials at the Courtside Bar and Grill.
While that might not seem like much, jobs like theirs, with benefits and higher-than-minimum wages, are considered plum in this depressed corner of southern Ohio. Decades of industrial decline have eroded private-sector jobs here, leaving a thin crust of low-paying service work that makes public-sector jobs look great in comparison.
Now, as Ohio’s legislature moves toward final approval of a bill that would chip away at public-sector unions, those workers say they see it as the opening bell in a race to the bottom. At stake, they say, is what little they have that makes them middle class.
“These jobs let you put good food on the table and send your kids on school trips,” said Monty Blanton, a retired electrician and union worker. “The gap between low and middle is collapsing.”
Gallipolis (pronounced gal-uh-POLICE) is a faded town on the Ohio River, one whose fortunes fell with the decline in industries like steel in bigger cities along the river. That erased a swath of middle-income jobs in the area, said Bob Walton, who, as a commissioner for the Southern Ohio Port Authority, an economic development agency, has tracked the economic history of the area for decades.
“It’s a real big change,” Mr. Walton said. “It has changed the complexion of our community.”
Today, storefronts are mostly dark. About one in three people live in poverty. Billboards advertise oxygen tanks and motorized wheelchairs. Old photographs in a local diner look like an exhibit from a town obituary. The region has some of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the state, with more people dying from overdoses than car crashes, according to Ed Hughes, executive director of the Counseling Center in Portsmouth, about 55 miles west of here.
David Beaver, 65, a barber, said that when he got out of high school, “you could go anywhere you wanted to and pick your job.”
“Now, it’s depressing,” Mr. Beaver said. “I hear the boys talking. They can’t find anything.”
It is not that there are no jobs, but rather that the jobs available pay too little and have no benefits, resulting in, as Mr. Beaver put it, “just scraping by.” A private hospital and two power plants do offer good jobs, but they are highly competitive and many require some higher education, something that fewer than one in five people here have, according to 2009 census data.
So most people scrape by, as Ms. Taylor did before landing her state job in 1996. At the time, she was living in a trailer and working in low-wage jobs at Wendy’s, Dairy Queen and a Big Lots discount store. Her hourly wage jumped to $9 when she started at the Gallipolis Developmental Center, a state home for mentally retarded people, up from $5.25 at a private nursing home.
It’s an interesting mind that can tell you that the jump from 5.25 an hour to 9 dollars an hour makes someone a fat cat union employee while simultaneously arguing that 250k a year is not rich. I’m sure there is a Reason video somewhere that explains this.