Wanted to talk about how the union-busting campaign in Ohio felt on the ground. I could have done it prior to this but I’m superstitious. For whatever reason I believe that reckless pre-election punditry on my part ensures a loss.
Conservatives ran a traditional divide and conquer campaign, they ran it at thirty thousand feet, and they lied about the central issue in the campaign.
Conservatives attempted to divide Ohio along two lines: the public versus public sector unions, and private sector unions versus public sector unions.
They tried to cleave off private sector unions because there’s a dirty little (open) secret in my part of Ohio, and it’s that many private sector union members vote for Republicans. Republicans would like to continue to win statewide races in Ohio, so they’d like to continue to bash unions while winking and nodding to the private sector union members who vote for them in counties like mine.
It didn’t work. Private sector union members were 100% on-board. There was no discernable division between the two groups. That’s somewhat remarkable, because prior to Governor Kasich, there actually was a divide between, say, local public school teachers and local Teamsters. That’s why Republicans saw an opening. Because it was there. Those two groups have very little in common. I went to a phone bank yesterday and last night where retired teachers were making canvassing calls alongside 30 year old men in work clothes. Dividing private sector unions and public sector unions failed.
Conservatives ran a traditional divide and conquer campaign, and they ran it exclusively at 30,000 feet. It wasn’t just help from Liz Cheney and national conservative groups, it was all Liz Cheney and national conservative groups. There was no organization at all in this county, no observable signs of life from any actual local Republican activist. It’s a huge advantage for Democrats, because we’ve been organized and energized since Kasich opened his mouth and started insulting our friends and neighbors, and we’ve been organized in a practical, tangible, grim and determined way that appeals to me. We’ve been very, very busy. I don’t know what they’ve been doing on the other side, because we haven’t had time to look deeply into The Conservative Soul lately, thank God.
The central issue in the campaign wasn’t health insurance, and it wasn’t pensions, and it wasn’t wages. Republicans lied about that, both by continuing to insist that it was about those things, and then lying about those things specifically.
Here’s a quote from a Republican who gets it:
Republicans who watched the campaign on the union measure said it was doomed from the start. The law was a frontal assault on one of the most sacred principles for Democrats: the right of organized labor to collectively bargain. Defeating the repeal campaign would have required near-universal Republican support, which was not there because some registered Republicans opposed the law. “This really is a core value, and the bill was out of step with that value,” said one Republican strategist, who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to be seen as criticizing his party’s position.
Collective bargaining stands for the idea that your boss has to sit down with you and negotiate. That’s it. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean you get a great pension and it doesn’t mean you pay 0% or 10% or 15% towards health insurance, because those things are not “collective bargaining”, those things are terms that can be and are negotiated when your boss has to sit down with you. People here know this, and it doesn’t matter how much direct mail Liz Cheney sends them that says otherwise. The terms aren’t the main issue. The fact that workers have the power to negotiate at all is the main issue.
Collective bargaining stands for the idea that your boss has to sit down with you and negotiate. That’s it, but that’s huge. What the people I spoke to and listened to since March heard from Republicans was this: “we don’t have to sit down with you at all, and we won’t”. That is a profound loss, an insult that cuts deep, and I’m not talking about bitching about health insurance premiums. People don’t tear up when they’re talking about 15% towards health insurance premiums. It’s dignity, it’s control, and it’s respect, both for public employees and for the work that they do.
Collective bargaining isn’t a core value “for Democrats”. It’s a core value for human beings. It says that the person or entity that controls nearly all of your waking hours has to sit at the same level with you and deal with you as an equal, if only once a year, or once every five years.