With Ohio voters looking to overturn Governor John Kasich's union-busting Senate Bill 5 through a statewide referendum, national Republican donors, strategists and corporations are pumping money into the state to defend the Governor and his bill.
On November 8th, Ohio voters will go to the polls to vote whether to repeal Senate Bill (SB) 5, which limits collective bargaining rights for public employees. The bill was passed in the House and Senate and signed by Governor John Kasich, but cannot be implemented until after the referendum comes to a vote.
Ohio was one of several states that passed suspiciously similar union-busting legislation in 2011. Gov. Kasich, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, is an alumnus of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that brings state legislators and corporate leaders together to draft "model bills" that advance the right-wing corporate agenda. According to Common Cause, Kasich and other Ohio Republicans who supported SB 5 received at least $563,000 in campaign contributions from ALEC corporations in 2010 (not counting contributions from the Republican Governor's Association, to which some ALEC supporters also donated--notably including $1 million from David Koch (as examined by the Center for Media and Democracy in the article "Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money").
Ohio is one of 24 states, not including Wisconsin, in which a referendum can be placed on the ballot for any piece of legislation. On June 29th, 2011, supporters of an effort to repeal SB 5 submitted 915,456 certified signatures in a campaign led by the anti-SB 5, union-backed group "We Are Ohio." The referendum's Issue 2 will decide the fate of SB 5 -- a majority of "yes" votes will keep the union-busting bill in place, a "no" vote will strike it down.
Right-wing groups from outside the state, many of which keep their donor lists and expenditures secret, are spending undisclosed amounts on spin advertisements in an effort to save the bill and confuse voters. The ads focus on the questionable claim that public sector employees make more than private sector employees. The ads also deny that the bill is about union busting.
Here are a few of the special interest groups trying to convince Ohio voters that union-busting is good for them.
Alliance for America's Future
The Alexandria, Virginia-based Alliance for America's Future (AFAF) has spent over seven figures in an effort to flood millions of Ohio voters' mailboxes with fliers encouraging a "yes" vote on Issue 2 to uphold the bill. Heading the AFAF is Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president' Dick Cheney, and Barry Bennert, former chief of staff to Ohio Congresswoman Jen Schmidt (R-2nd District). The Alliance does not disclose its corporate donors.
Ohio is just one of 30 states, including Wisconsin, in which the AFAF has become involved. Their official website offers no information on staff or current projects, but instead offers a single webpage stating the AFAF is "dedicated to educating and advocating sound economic and security policies that will foster growth, prosperity, and peace for America's future."
The group's fliers include lines such as "OBAMA wants us to do things HIS WAY? Yes on Issue 2 is our chance to do things OUR WAY," and "Yes on Issue 2 will get POLITICIANS to do the right thing on spending."
Building a Better Ohio
The Columbus, Ohio-based Building a Better Ohio has developed a series of television ads in support of Issue 2.
Comprised of at least three former Kasich aides, the group is established as a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization and does not reveal its donors. Some have speculated that contributors include Karl Rove and his group Crossroads GPS.
Building a Better Ohio writes that they are "dedicated to promoting the reasonable reforms of State Issue 2." Their list of "reasonable reforms" includes government employees paying at least 15% of the cost of their health insurance premium, and "keeping union bosses from protecting bad teachers."
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Building a Better Ohio has paid for $23,225 worth of air time on WSYX-TV, $17,500 on WTTE-TV and $54,400 in ad time with WBNS-TV (Channel 10). The group is expected to spend $20 million on this autumn's campaign.
Building a Better Ohio received an endorsement by perennial GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in July 2011. In an internet video, Gingrich encourages the public to "strengthen what Governor Kasich is doing and to make sure that everyone in Ohio has a better future with more jobs." Building a Better Ohio has not disclosed its corporate donor list, although representatives report there are plans to reveal one before Nov. 8th. If released, the list will include only donor names, but no contribution amount.
The group's "Life or Death" ad generated controversy when police and firefighters denounced it on October 13th. The video features Marlene Quinn, a Cincinnati great-grandmother, who opposes Issue 2.
The advertisement breaks apart an interview with Quinn to create the misleading impression that she favors Issue 2. The ad says, "Without Issue 2, communities will need to lay off hardworking firefighters to pay for the excessive benefits of other government employees." The video aired without Quinn's permission.
Building a Better Ohio is standing by their decision to use the interview without permission. A spokesperson for Building a Better Ohio said the group believes "it is on firm legal footing in running the ad."
Quinn condemned the ad, and responded to the video spin by releasing her own ad called "Marlene Quinn Speaks Out," through the pro-union and anti SB 5 group, We Are Ohio. In the video, Quinn states clearly that she support's union rights and is voting "No" on Issue 2.
In another Building Better Ohio ad, "Had Enough," a narrator says, "Without Issue 2, hardworking Ohio families will face higher taxes to pay for the excessive wages and benefits of government employees who already make 43% more than the rest of us."
This incorrect statistic came out of a report issued by the Ohio Business Roundtable entitled "Public vs. Private Sector Compensation in Ohio."
The Ohio Business Roundtable is a self-proclaimed independent, nonpartisan group whose board is comprised almost entirely of former corporate CEOs.
According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the truth is that public employees make less than private-sector employees. The study concluded that full-time Ohio state and local public employees earn 3.3 percent less in wages and salaries than similar private sector workers, and 3.5 percent less in total compensation. The study found that Ohio public workers are, on average, more highly educated than private sector workers. Governments pay college-educated employees 25 percent less in annual total compensation, on average, than private employers. A similar study at Rutgers University found Ohio public employees earn 6 percent less on a yearly basis, and 3.5 percent less on an hourly basis than those in the private sector.
Dick Armey's FreedomWorks
FreedomWorks, the D.C.-based group affiliated with the Tea Party and led by Dick Armey, has distributed tens of thousands of door hangers and yard signs in Ohio that read "Yes on Issue 2 & 3."
FreedomWorks, which is led by people who previously worked for David Koch's "Citizens for a Sound Economy," FreedomWorks' predecessor group, does not disclose its corporate donors, and its leaders are drawn heavily from the leadership of the Republican Party and right-wing operatives. FreedomWorks asserts that it is not affiliated with any Issue 2 or 3 Campaign or Committee.
The FreedomWorks website encourages visitors to download and print available door hangers (pdf) with a promise that "tens of thousands more [are] on the way."
The group also created the website YesForJobs.com, which allows Ohioans to download absentee ballots and provides information on where to send them.
Ohio Liberty Council
The Ohio Liberty Council (OLC), a Tea Party group headed by 12 council board members, has released two television ads in support of Issue 2. The OLC claims group leaders and "private citizens" fund it. President, Tom Zawistowski and Vice President, Jason Mihalick lead the OLC, which does not disclose its donors.
In one OLC ad, the narrator states that Issue 2 is not one of "pro-union" or "anti-union" but rather about "taxpayers rights."
A second television ad, "The Story of a Broke Ohio," states that we will be in a deficit because "96 percent of schools tax revenue will go toward staff compensation," and what they call "Gold-plated pensions and benefits."
This statistic was pulled from a study by The Buckeye Institute, a conservative 501 (c)(3) "research organization" that has been used in a number of campaigns and as an "expert" on SB5. The Buckeye Institute "study" highlights the projected deficits of nineteen Central Ohio School Districts, and concludes that Central Ohio School Districts will have a budget deficit of nearly $1 billion by 2015 unless compensation packages are realigned or taxes are raised.
The "study" was released as an ad that appeared in twenty-two suburban news weeklies across central Ohio. The ad on its own does not mention SB 5, but it is used in a number of pro SB 5 campaigns.
The "study" places the burden of responsibility for the deficit on government employees, and ignores the fact that Ohio union officials agreed to pay more for insurance and accept wage cuts and freezes.
Americans for Prosperity
The Americans for Prosperity Ohio branch is organizing support for SB 5. AFP Ohio has scheduled more than a dozen town hall meetings across Ohio, organized phone banks and is currently urging supporters of the bill to defend Building a Better Ohio's "Life or Death" ad featuring great-grandmother Marlene Quinn.
Americans for Prosperity is chaired by oil billionaire David Koch and funded by Koch money and other undisclosed sources. The group includes both a 501(c)(3) that received over $10 million in 2009, and a 501(c)(4) that received over $16 million that year. Neither the national AFP nor its state arms disclose their donors.
Americans for Prosperity's Ohio branch received a web endorsement from Gov. Kasich in June. In a web-only video, Gov. Kasich praises AFP-Ohio. He refers to the group as "fighters for freedom" and thanks them for their "support to the effort to get Ohio back on track."
Make Ohio Great
Make Ohio Great is spending thousands to aid Gov. Kasich in his defense of SB 5. Make Ohio Great is a group founded and funded by the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which spent over $9 million to elect Gov. Kasich in 2010. The RGA is funded by billionaires like David Koch and Rupert Murdoch, as well as numerous large corporations. The RGA spent tens of millions on advertisements in the 2010 election year. In August 2010 Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation donated $1 million to the RGA, along with David Koch and others. Make Ohio Great disputes claims that they are a group set up for secret cash to flow in defense of SB 5.
Make Ohio Great reportedly bought $48,100 in airtime with WBNS-TV.
In the ad, titled "Kasich Getting the Jobs Done," Kasich asks Ohioans to "take a new path," and boasts that he has balanced the budget without raising taxes.
Kasich may be speaking too soon, as his economic plan for Ohio depends in part on SB 5 becoming law. The cost-savings come from requiring employees pay more for health insurance, and limiting their vacation and sick time, some of which unions had agreed to voluntarily. Ending collective bargaining, though, saved the state no money -- despite messaging to the contrary by out-of-state right-wing organizations, balanced budgets need not come at the expense of collective bargaining.
prwatch.org, Fri Oct 28 2011
My mind keeps drifting back to the recent Air Canada flight attendants' strike that never happened, as a result of threats from the Harper government. I know it's already mouldy in news-cycle terms but its significance, its potential as a teachable moment, only became clear with the spread of the Occupy movements and their demand for some genuine democratic experience, versus the sham versions we now get in most elections. So return with me now to yesterweek.
When the flight attendants voted down, for the second time, a deal negotiated by their leaders with Air Canada, it's the reaction that was so illuminating. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said: "Maybe the union misjudged, maybe management misjudged, but to do it two times in a row is a warning bell . . . "
Yet what had gone wrong? The members got the final say and used it. She should understand that and even embrace it. Her Conservative party has its roots in the Reform party, which advocated referenda, recall votes and above all, the responsibility of elected reps to their constituents. That rejection was a shining triumph for true democracy, not a warning bell.
Air Canada VP Duncan Dee said, "We are perplexed and disappointed." I like the honesty of "perplexed." Like many in our society, he may well have lost track of what democracy actually involves. I also liked the Winnipeg Free Press headline: "Flight attendants buck union, reject offer." Just a sec, now. Aren't the flight attendants themselves the union? You can't buck yourself, or not easily. This gives away the game: unions are not parallel versions of companies, which are hierarchical and authoritarian, because they're owned. Unions are a radically different form of human organization, belonging to their members, equally. They're an implicit democratic alternative and challenge to the business model, especially when you're looking for models that could work in politics.
I grant that alternative quality can often be hard to find in today's unions. Many union leaders (significantly called 'bosses') can be as perplexed, disappointed — and angry — as Air Canada's veep if they meet internal opposition. But the sense of potential lingers. It's why some early radicals ("syndicalists") saw unions as the model for social and political transformation. It's why union culture — especially the songs — continue to make people feel warm and fuzzy. It's in the history: union sit-down strikes at factories in the 1930s were a model for the civil rights sit-ins of the 1960s, which lurk behind today's Occupy actions.
I think this simmering sense of potential is why unions have sluggishly risen to top of mind during the current crisis, both economic and political. The first stirrings of occupation/opposition in the U.S., came in Wisconsin, after efforts to demonize and destroy unions. Stephen Harper is threatening to end decades of relative labour peace, by ordering private sector strikers back, and proposing an overhaul of the Labour Code. Union membership is at a historic low but he seems to sense an underlying menace, and maybe he's right.
A backer of the business agenda like Neil Reynolds in the Globe and Mail, says, of public sector unions: "We could justifiably eliminate them. We could justifiably eliminate the right to strike." His libertarian impulse simply evaporates when the freedom that individuals choose to exercise is their freedom to join together to confront the lopsided might of corporations or governments.
For the first time in memory, two main contenders for the federal NDP leadership are from the labour movement. That party almost always opts for middle-class professionals, Rhodes scholars when possible. A third candidate (Thomas Mulcair) is defining himself, effectively, against unions.
I'm aware of the dangers of romanticizing here. The union movement of the 1930s won't be back. The nature of work has changed, for instance, with home work and telecommuting. Unions face a world of workers without workplaces, where sit-down strikes would look pretty odd.
But there are sources of inspiration even here. The old Industrial Workers of the World — the Wobblies — organized workers everywhere, anyone could join. Helen Keller belonged. (Yes, that Helen Keller.) They're still around, they try to unionize the occasional Starbucks. As Joe Hill, executed in a 1915 strike, might have counselled: Don't whine, organize . . .
thestar.com, Thurs Oct 27 2011
Issue: Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2010 at Peri Formworks in Calgary have been on strike since July 4.
Actions Requested: Join the picket lines to show your support for workers as they attempt to get a fair contract.
When: 3:00 p.m., Thursday, October 27th.
Backgrounder: Workers at Peri Formworks have been on strike for more than 113 days in a bid to get a first collective agreement. They are seeking only a reasonable wage and fairness in the workplace.
AFL's Position: Members of other unions need to show their support for these workers fighting for basic rights and respect.
Action: Join them on the picket line at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 29 Industry Way SE, Calgary.
COLUMBUS -- Major polling has remained consistent in its conclusions on Senate Bill 5 since lawmakers passed the legislation earlier this year and opponents launched a petition drive to repeal it.
In four surveys by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, a majority of the registered voters questioned about the issue said the new controversial collective bargaining law should be repealed.
In each of those surveys, the difference between the two sides remained in double digits. In fact, a new poll released earlier this week put Issue 2 opponents 25 percentage points ahead of supporters.
But those same respondents support provisions in the bill related to public employee compensation.
In four surveys since May, voters said public employees should pay at least 15 percent of their health care and at least 10 percent of their wages toward pension plans.
They also support using employees' performance to determine pay raises, not necessarily the number of years on the job. And in most cases, the difference between the two sides has remained in double digits.
With less than two weeks before Election Day, the poll results paint an interesting picture for the future of collective bargaining reform in the state.
"The issues that drove the necessity of having Senate Bill 5 or Issue 2 haven't changed," said Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus. "We're on an unsustainable path, we cannot continue paying the costs at the local government level or at the state level."
He added, "While we have not prepared anything at this point, I would have to say that given the fact that the situation will remain exactly the same on Nov. 10, then we certainly have an obligation to the voters and to the residents of Ohio to find a way to make sure that we can ensure the continuation of local government services in the state of Ohio in a reasonable way."
There are rumblings that lawmakers will move on separate legislation enacting parts of Senate Bill 5, should Issue 2 fail next month.
There are Republicans who support that course of action.
"I personally would want to, but we have not had that discussion" said Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon who supports Senate Bill 5. "I have not had that discussion with the Speaker or anyone else. (But) I think it's extremely important that all public employees in Ohio pay their 10 percent of their pension and not push that off onto the taxpayers of Ohio, which is what a lot of law enforcement and others do, particularly in the urban centers."
He added, "It should be a privilege to all those people to pay their 10 percent and not expect the taxpayers and the cities and counties and state to pick up the tab."
Others who have been outspoken in their support of Senate Bill 5 are remaining mum on what happens if the issue fails, including Sen. Shannon Jones, a Republican from the Cincinnati area and primary sponsor of the new law.
"I can't speak to what's going to happen beyond Nov. 8," Jones said. "What I do know is that these communities are out of money. I wish it wasn't the case, but that's where we are. We're either going to give our public manager flexibility to manage through this or we're going to continue to operate a system that the only options that these communities have are mass layoffs and elimination of services or tax increases that the public doesn't want to pay."
She added, "If issue 2 doesn't pass, it's not going to give local communities any more money."
Gov. John Kasich isn't commenting publicly about what comes next, either.
"I think everybody knows that local governments are struggling now to create an environment of job creation," he said. "... Local governments will have to come to grips with how they control their costs and how they create jobs. There's a rising concern about voting for more taxes at the local level ... That's what we've given them the tools to do (with Senate Bill 5). We'll see what happens."
Union leaders say they're ready to work with Republican lawmakers on future collective bargaining reform.
"We would hope that if we get into this situation where the bill is rejected ... by Ohio voters, that the people in the legislature will see that Ohioans have spoken," said Jay McDonald, president of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. "(We hope) they will provide the opportunity to have the legislative process that was denied in the beginning."
Some opponents of Senate Bill 5 are calling Issue 2 as a referendum not only on the collective bargaining law but also on Kasich himself.
The governor disagrees.
"What's on the ballot is a referendum on the issue," he said. "You might try to make it (a referendum against me), but that's not the way I see it. ... The fact of the matter is the ability to control costs is really important for local communities. That's what's on the ballot, but you'll interpret it any way you want."
He added, "I've been out there making a case for it, telling people why we need it, and we'll see what happens. And we'll move on, one way or the other. (There's) a lot to do in Ohio."
Even if the bill fails, Kasich said Senate Bill 5 has accomplished something. It's prompted a better public understanding of public employee collective bargaining in the state, and it's led public organized labor to agree to contract concessions, he said.
"Senate Bill 5 and Issue 2 have changed Ohio," the governor said. "It has, because people are more aware of the costs. And as a result, we're seeing progress."
He added, "There are settlements that are coming that are in the better interest (of) communities. ... This has changed the culture already. We're already winning in what we're trying to do, which is to make Ohio more fertile for job creation."
A defeat of Senate Bill 5, however, would have political ramifications for Kasich and other Republicans, moving into a 2012 presidential election year, said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University who has written extensively on political parties and elections.
"If it's rescinded, it obviously is a rebuke to (Kasich) and to his leadership," Beck said. "And what it will do is make Republican politicians all over the state nervous -- nervous about 2012, much less inclined to follow his lead. ... I think that it's very important politically in terms of the signal it will send."
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio isn't a liberal-leaning group, McDonald said. In fact, he said many of his members tend to vote Republican.
But Senate Bill 5 could have repercussions when current officeholders are up for reelection next year or in 2014.
The bill "wasn't just about health care or arbitration," he said. "It's just such a wide-ranging, broad attack on collective bargaining and public employees in general that I think the political effects of this thing are so big. ... My people are highly upset with the governor, and they've taken a lot of the things that he's done as an insult."
But Kevin DeWine, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, rejected any notion that Issue 2 is a referendum on Kasich or that it would affect GOP candidates next year.
"Clearly, that's what (those opposing Senate Bill 5) want," DeWine said. "They want to sell this to their base as a referendum on the governor. I don't view it as such, and I think that it will have little impact one way or the other on the election of 2012."
He added, "The election of 2012 is not about Senate Bill 5 or something that appeared in March of 2011... The election of 2012 is about Barack Obama. It's about jobs and the economy, debt, deficit, taxes, spending. That's what's going to be on the hearts and minds of voters, not Senate Bill 5 one way or the other, whether it passes or fails."
The Daily Record, Wed Oct 26 2011
Judgment day is just around the corner for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's anti-union bill. On November 8, Ohioans will vote on whether to repeal Kasich's SB 5 legislation, which slashes collective-bargaining rights for more than 350,000 public employees. A slew of independent advocacy groups are already barraging voters with pro- and anti-SB 5 messaging, pumping millions of dollars into TV ads, mailers, lawn signs, door hangers, town halls, and more.
Read Mac McClelland's feature on middle-class life in Ohio under Gov. John Kasich as well as MoJo's coverage of the SB 5 repeal fight.
The outfits joining the SB 5 slugfest include Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, heavy-hitting conservative groups with deep ties to the tea party activists; powerful labor unions; the corporate-funded Republican Governors Association; and shadowy political committees, including the Alliance for America's Future, run by a daughter of Dick Cheney. Catherine Turcer, who runs Ohio Citizen Action's Money in Politics project, estimates that $20 million could be spent on the SB 5 fight; other estimates go as high as $40 million. (Nearly $35 million was spent by all candidates in Ohio's 2010 gubernatorial election.) Spending totals will become clearer after Thursday's campaign finance deadline for the referendum, but even then, some groups don't have to reveal their finances at all. "Voters know that an incredible amount of money is being spent on this during a recession," Turcer says.
Leading the charge in defense of Kasich's anti-union bill is Building a Better Ohio, a political action committee. At least three former Kasich aides, including his ex-chief of staff, work for the group. BBO has flooded airwaves with television ads in support SB 5, including the infamous "GrannyGate" ad, in which the group recut an anti-SB 5 ad to make the opposite point, sparking a statewide furor. Another BBO ad argues that government workers are overpaid compared to private-sector workers, citing a study written by the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank and commissioned by business groups that support SB 5, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. (Fact-check sites have repeatedly debunked this claim.) BBO also sponsored a recent talk by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who stumped for upholding SB 5 and told the bill's supporters to deflate the car tires of those voting for repeal.
By law, BBO doesn't have to disclose who donated and how much they gave. The group has said it will disclose the names of its funders on Thursday but will not reveal how much was given. "With Building a Better Ohio, Ohioans are really in the dark about which individuals, which corporations, who is actually supporting this bill," Turcer says. (Building a Better Ohio did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Spearheading the other side of the fight is We Are Ohio. The union-backed group argues that public workers in Ohio sacrificed plenty in wages and benefits before Kasich's anti-union bill and that SB 5 unfairly guts workers' rights. We Are Ohio has churned out TV ad after ad assailing SB 5 and urging its repeal, claiming that the bill hinders the ability of firefighters, teachers, and other public workers to do their jobs. When BBO recut We Are Ohio's ad featuring great-grandmother Marlene Quinn urging repeal of SB 5 so that it suggested that Quinn supported the bill, We Are Ohio got the ad pulled from at least 30 TV stations throughout Ohio.
We Are Ohio, unlike its nemesis, will disclose its financials on Thursday. According to a July filing, the group raised $7.3 million, much of it from the Ohio Education Association, which chipped in $5 million to defeat SB 5. The Dayton Daily News reported that We Are Ohio had outspent Building a Better Ohio by a 5-2 margin on TV ad time through mid-October, $1.92 million to $741,000. Reached Thursday night, Melissa Fazeckas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, declined to provide new fundraising and spending figures until the group filed its latest report on Thursday.
The remaining outside money landscape in the SB 5 fight is much more murky. Consider the Alliance for America's Future, a Virginia-based outfit that has pledged to spend "over seven figures" defending SB 5. AAF has churned out mailers dragging President Obama into the fight over Kasich's bill. One reads: "Obama's policies are FAILING OUR COUNTRY. OBAMA wants us to do things HIS WAY? Yes on Issue 2 is our chance to do things OUR WAY!"
Alliance for America's Future doesn't reveal any of its funders. Its website is a single page listing a generic email address, and last fall, when Mother Jones arrived with a camera at the Alliance's listed address in Alexandria, Virginia, a man who refused to identify himself said the group's employees were out to lunch and, later, shooed us away. (The Alliance did not respond to a request for comment.)
Then there are the tea party-associated groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. AFP's Ohio branch scheduled more than a dozen town halls across Ohio, organized phone banks, and urged supporters to send auto-letters to TV stations defending Building a Better Ohio's controversial "GrannyGate" ad. (Officials with AFP's national office and Ohio branch did not respond to requests for information about their spending.)
Earlier this month, FreedomWorks trumpeted its "aggressive grassroots campaign" to uphold SB 5. A key architect of the tea party, FreedomWorks said it'd already distributed "tens of thousands" of yard signs and door hangers supporting SB 5 through six distribution centers set up around the state. YesForJobs.com, a website created by FreedomWorks, lets Ohioans download absentee ballots, lists addresses for mailing those ballots, and includes downloadable pro-SB 5 signs. And FreedomWorks will also provide get-out-the-vote activists with pro-SB 5 information. (FreedomWorks did not respond to requests for information on its Ohio spending.)
Rounding out the dark money bonanza is Make Ohio Great, an Ohio group bankrolled by the Republican Governors Association. According to an October 9 Associated Press story, Make Ohio Great had spent $441,000 on TV time in Ohio's five largest TV markets—Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Youngstown. That is chump change for Make Ohio Great's sugar daddy, the RGA, a powerhouse in state politics that spent $132 million during the 2010 election cycle. Ohio's Kasich benefited from $11 million in RGA support in 2010, with the RGA describing itself as "a key investor" in Kasich's win. And the RGA's donor list for the 2012 election cycle is a highlight reel of major corporations: Koch Industries ($1,025,000), Citadel Investment Group ($500,000), Blue Cross Blue Shield ($275,000), and Perry Homes ($250,000), the homebuilding company owned by GOP fundraiser extraordinaire Bob Perry.
The result of this money barrage, says Catherine Turcer, is a perplexed electorate that will struggle to parse the hidden agendas behind the ads, mailers, websites, and other messaging that will hit the state in the run-up to the November 8 election. "Even if voters wanted to be able to connect the dots, they're not able to," Turcer says. "We should all be able to follow the money and to understand who contributors are and to understand the source of information. Yet voters are left in the dark in this election because we don't have access to that kind of information."
Mother Jones, Wed Oct 26 2011
Taxi Workers Alliance joins AFL-CIO, as number of contract workers continues to grow
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last week, the National Taxi Workers Alliance became the first nontraditional labor group to join the AFL-CIO as an affiliate since the 1960s, when the United Farm Workers were admitted to the labor union federation. The alliance isn't a union; since cab drivers often work as independent contractors and rarely share common employers, they legally cannot organize and bargain collectively.
The admittance of the NTWA, which formally occurred last Thursday at a panel event hosted by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, shows the AFL-CIO's commitment to pursuing irregular channels to organize workers and form community alliances. More and more workers find themselves employed as independent contractors and in employment relationships that do not allow for collectively bargaining. Organizing these workers will be crucial to rebuilding worker power.
But how do you build a financially sustainable and membership-driven labor organization when in some cases it's impossible to organize workers lacking collective bargaining rights?
"We all carry around the mental mood of the workplace, where we have an employer and a worker. And our laws respond to that. But that no longer corresponds to reality," panelist David Weil of Boston University said Thursday at "The Future of Work and New Ways to Build Power," held in Washington D.C.
More than 10 million U.S. workers are currently classified as independent contractors and not allowed to organize legally. In addition, several million more work in agriculture or domestic work—sectors that are forbidden to organize under the National Labor Relations Act. And millions of restaurants experience such high turnover that it is nearly impossible for workers to form a union. And of couse, employees union-busting efforts also make it difficult to for workers to organize.
The only way organized labor may be able to fight for these workers is by engaging in nontraditional labor campaigns that do not seek traditional collective bargaining arrangements at their heart. Winning this kind of non-traditional community-labor campaigns will not only help labor advocate for these workers, but could potentially strengthen labor's power through building community alliances and organizing workers that were previously excluded.
Some in the labor movement sees the New York taxi drivers' 15-year effort to win pay increases and improve working conditions as an example of how the labor movement can fight for workers in industries traditionally difficult to organize.
"We need to follow lead of the taxi drivers alliance," says Justin Molito, an organizer with Writers Guild of America East. "The decentralized nature of work is creating a new decentralized nature of resistance they will not be able to stop."
While organizing workers outside of collective bargaining units can bring about real change for workers, it can be difficult to financially sustain such organizations since collective bargaining agreements do not exist that make it easy for unions to collect dues automatically through paychecks. A large part of the funding for many of these nontraditional labor groups comes from others unions and large foundations.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance won landmark rights for domestic workers last year when New York State passed the landmark Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. However, Ai-Jen Poo, the groups' executive director, says even the majority of their funding comes from external sources.
The inability to self-fund workers' rights organization can lead to significant instability when outside groups decide to stop giving money. Outside funding from foundations and unions can be problematic as the funding is often dictated by the ability and desire of those outside groups and not necessarily by people in the group trying to improve their working conditions.
"When people get most of their money from the outside, it can create inertia," Bhairavi Desai, NTWA's executive director, said Thursday. The organization gets 80 percent of its funding from internal member dues collected individually one by one from members through an elaborate system of union stewards.
"If you don't need dues, you don't work too hard because getting people to give dues voluntarily is a tough thing to do. When your organization is driven internally, you are much more focused on meeting the needs of the members and making sure you work hard for that dues money."
In These Times, Mon Oct 24 2011
Byline: Mike Elk
It has been 20 years since India adopted free-market policies and opened up its economy to the world.
Liberalised India reduced public investment and expenditure and encouraged foreign investment and private enterprise.
But what has all this meant for the working class? Some say reduced government control has led to fair competition and hence better wages and working conditions.
"Not really," says senior left-wing trade unionist Aparna. She points out that competition increases pressure on workers.
"The post-liberalisation era saw companies increasingly hiring contract labour in private as well as public enterprises causing loss of job security," she says.
"As workers were forced to deal with management individually, traditional structures like trade unions became increasingly weak and insignificant."
That's a sentiment echoed by workers across the automobile sector in the northern Indian states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
Despite this, life now seems to have come full circle. Workers are again putting faith in the union structure, trying to forge unity between permanent and contractual labour for better negotiations with company managements.
But do modern-day trade unions have the same power as those of yesteryear? The workers don't have one correct answer to this, but point to a common thread in their unionising experience, that of the struggle to form a union.
As workers were forced to deal with management individually, traditional structures like trade unions becoming increasingly weak and insignificant"
Indian labour laws guarantee workers the right to unionise. The Trade Unions Act, passed in 1926, allows workers to register unions with the Labour Department. These then have to be recognised by the company they work for.
But workers allege that privatisation has encouraged collusion between labour departments and company managements, making the process of registration of unions difficult - a charge vehemently denied by both.
Pradeep Fogaat, 30, is part of the 2,000-plus workforce at a plant run by India's leading carmaker, Maruti Suzuki.
He, along with all his co-workers, is on strike. Camping outside their factory in a makeshift tent, they are demanding their right to form a workers' union.
Maruti Suzuki is a joint venture partner of the Japanese company, Suzuki Motor Corporation, with almost 50% of India's booming car market.
But Pradeep alleges that the working conditions at the plant are bad. He says workers get very short breaks and lose their pay if they take even one day's leave.
Now they want to form a union to negotiate better conditions, but blame the management for scuttling their efforts by pressurising the workers through suspensions and lock-outs.
Continue reading the main story
We know we have to stay united, that's why we want our union"
Maruti Suzuki employee
But Maruti says that it already has a recognised union - and it accuses the workers of inefficiency and even sabotage at its plant.
Pradeep maintains that this is a management-supported puppet union, a popular route adopted by companies to complete the formality of having a workers' union.
"All of this started when we tried to get our union registered, we do not consider the existing union as our representative, the management is trying to divide the 40% permanent and 60% contract workers, but we know we have to stay united, that's why we want our union."
Maruti says it has lost more than $330m (£209m) in turnover because of these strikes, leading to production delays in its other big plant as well.
But the stand-off continues, as neither the management nor the workers are ready to budge from their positions.
This is the Maruti workers' third strike this year for the same demand. And Maruti is not the only case. Strikes demanding the right to form workers' unions have hit the automobile sector in northern India at frequent intervals.
Spare parts production company Rico faced a strike in 2009 which affected production in Ford and General Motors plants in Canada and the US.
Suzuki plants in different parts of India are seeing protests by workers Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India saw a strike in 2005 which was ended by violent police action.
While the Hero Honda agitation was successful and the company now has a robust workers' union, Rico workers had to bow down to their management.
Despite a chequered history, workers here seem to have faith in the organised trade union.
Radheyshyam (name changed on request) works with Munjal Shaw, a company that manufactures bike parts. He says that his company has never had a workers' union.
He has been working here for almost four years, but he is still on contract. In fact, 90% of his factory's labour force is on contract.
"Many of us have worked for many years at this factory and still are not regularised," he says.
"Since we are on contract, we are under the constant threat of being fired by our contractor and hence cannot raise our voice. Maybe if there was a union, things would change."
But Radheyshyam knows that it is a catch-22 situation. With a very small part of his factory's workforce as permanent, they cannot apply to register themselves as a union.
Most trade unions in India are aligned to parliamentary parties and of these, leftist parties have traditionally been at the forefront of voicing workers' demands.
But instead of lending strength to them, senior trade unionist Aparna says that since liberalisation, as leftist parties joined governments, they have also followed government policies.
"The blame of the weakening union scenario lies at the doorstep of the organised unions themselves, as they have either been aligned to parliamentary parties or governments," she says.
"Their priorities have changed and they have operated in a broad political consensus of new economic policies."
Despite this, she says that the workers' renewed faith in unions has a future, as it depends to a large extent on their strength and commitment. And that is on an upswing again.
BBC News/Delhi, Wed Oct 19 2011
Dick Cheney was once a union man—after flunking out of Yale, the future vice president worked as an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers lineman in Wyoming—but now his daughter is leading the fight to destroy unions in America.
The essential battle for organized labor in America this fall is in the state of Ohio, where voters will go to the polls in just three weeks to decide whether to overturn anti-labor legislation that Governor John Kasich and a Republican-controlled legislature forced on the state last spring.
If the anti-labor law is upheld, Kasich will be thanking Liz Cheney. The daughter of the former vice president has—along with former White House political czar Karl Rove—taken a leading role among the out-of-state groups that are raising money and implementing media campaigns to support the law.
Heavy spending by a group Cheney heads, in combination with spending by other corporate-allied national groups, offers Kasich the only hope he's got for winning a fight that is turning uglier by the day. And don't doubt for a moment that Dick Cheney's a part of this push; Liz Cheney has throughout her adult life worked closely with her father (she helped him prepare and promote his autobiography) and Liz's sister, Mary Cheney, says: "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any daylight at all between Liz's and my father's views. It's not because she's been indoctrinated. It's because he's right."
Reasonable people might debate whether "he's right." But there's no doubt that the Cheneys are playing hardball in Ohio.
In so doing, they are positioning Liz Cheney as a major mover on the political right—since the state-based fights in Wisconsin and Ohio are major concerns of the corporations that fund conservative causes.
After the anti-labor law was enacted earlier this year, Ohioans reacted with passionate opposition to the gutting of collective bargaining rights for public employees. They were frightened by the threat the law posed to the ability of unions to advocate for firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees in the workplace, and to the prospect that weakened unions would be unable to counter corporate spin at election time. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions to put a veto referendum on the ballot. And polls from last summer indicated that likely voters were overwhelming opposed to Kasich's law.
Now, however, the fight over Issue 2, the referendum on whether to keep the anti-labor legislation on the books, is getting closer. Polls still show that most voters intend to cast "No on 2" ballots, indicating their rejection of the law and their desire that Ohio again respect collective bargaining rights. But the margin has narrowed in recent weeks, thanks to the millions of dollars being spent by corporate interests to try to save the law and, in so doing, to shore up Kasich's diminished political fortunes.
Acknowledged spending in Ohio by groups on both sides of the issue has already topped $3 million and, with three weeks to go before November 8, the big-money moment is yet to come. "We are spending a significant amount of money on the airwaves," Melissa Fazekas, the spokeswoman for the labor-backed We Are Ohio campaign said last week. "But we do think we'll be outspent at the end of the day."
That's a safe bet, as national corporate and conservative groups are rushing to defend Kasich and his anti-union policies. The Columbus Dispatch suggests that overall spending by groups that back the anti-labor law could easily top $20 million.
Liz Cheney's Alliance for America's Future is one of the most aggressive of the out-of-state special interest groups that have elbowed their way into the referendum fight. Cheney's group is part of a shadowy network of campaign organizations in which Dick's daughter serves as a principle operative. Another is called the "Partnership for America's Future," and in 2010, Cheney headed a group called "Send Harry Packing," which targeted Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. Some of the organizations are 527s, which means they must disclose contributions; others are 501(c)(4) organizations, which means they do not have to disclose the identities of donors. They trade money back and forth, and according to Public Citizen's Taylor Lincoln: "The Partnership for America's Future—whose principals include Mary Cheney, daughter of the former vice president—registered as a 527, just as American Crossroads initially did. But it simply reports that it receives all of its money from the Alliance for America's Future. The 'Alliance' is registered as a 501(c)(4)—enabling it and the groups to which it funnels money to operate under the cloak of secrecy."
How much Cheney's groups will spend in Ohio remains to be seen. But there is no question that they deal in big money. In 2010, Cheney told CBS News that her groups were budgeted to spend between $12 million and $15 million.
With a track record of backing Republicans 100 percent of the time, Cheney's groups are hyper-partisan, and they have frequently gotten in trouble for stretching the truth to score political points.
That's certainly been the case in Ohio.
Cheney's group began last month to flood Ohio with deceptive mailings that claim "voting yes on Issue 2 will give our communities the ability to get spending under control without raising taxes."
A mailing that just went out statewide declared: "We just can't afford to pay 100 percent of government employee benefits too."
"In this tough economy," the mailing continues, "it's just not fair to ask taxpayers to pay even more for salaries and benefits for government employees." Voting yes on Issue 2, it says, "means that government employees will make modest contributions to their benefits" by paying "at least 15 percent toward their health insurance coverage" and "just 10 percent toward their own retirement."
A Cleveland Plain Dealer PolitiFact Ohio review of the mailing concluded that it was "problematic" because the piece "leaves out important details needed to put the statement in context." Ultimately, the analysis concluded that the Cheney mailing rated "Half True" on its "Truth-O-Meter."
But it's worse than that.
The real lie is one of omission. What the Cheney mailings don't say is that the law undermines basic labor rights, eliminates effective collective bargaining and encourages communities to balance budgets on the backs of firefighters, police officers and teachers. Nor does Cheney mention that the cuts will undermine public services and public education at a time when Ohio cities have been rocked by factory closings and rising unemployment.
Of course, Liz Cheney is not concerned about the harm done to Ohioans and their communities by Kasich's law.
Cheney lives in northern Virginia, and she sends her kids to one of the most elite private schools in the country. She's weighing her political options, having already been talked up as a potential US Senate candidate.
Every campaign starts somewhere, however, and Liz Cheney has decided to wade into electoral politics as a champion of corporations who is willing to fund the drive to eliminate collective bargaining rights and wipe out trade unions.
The Nation, Tues Oct 18 2011
A protest, a press conference and an open-ended strike; workers say they will not rest until their colleagues, charged with attempting to murder their chief executive, are released
Telecom Egypt employees organised a protest this morning that finished in an open-ended strike, which they will continue until the release of five detained colleagues. A few hundred employees from the Opera region telecommunications hub, as well as some delegations from different telecommunication hubs all over Egypt, gathered in Opera Square on Tuesday morning, where the five employees were detained on 12 October.
Around the country, the staff of 40 other telecommunications hubs held strikes in solidarity with their detained colleagues. Thirty were located in Greater Cairo and ten in other governorates. Telecom Egypt's telephone directory service (140) and service hotline (111) have been out of service for several days in solidarity with the accused employees.
The anger of the employees, who have been protesting since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, escalated after five of their colleagues were charged with the attempted murder of chief executive Mohamed Abdel Rehim. The accused employees are being held in detention for 15 days pending their case, news that further infuriated the workers.
"The strike will only end after the release of our five colleagues," Essam Abou Senna, a worker, told Ahram Online.
"They arrested five at random. Some of them were not even protesting," said engineer Sherif Mansour, member of the independent syndicate Telecom Egypt employees formed after the revolution.
"There are excesses from the prosecution that the defence registered, like the disrespect in the timing of the exposure of the accused in front of the prosecution. In consequence, two lawyers only attended the investigations with the five accused employees," says Ahmed Saber, one of the lawyers of the accused employees.
In addition to the release of their colleagues, which they consider a priority, workers demanded the resignation of CEO Mohamed Abdel Rahim and the company's board of directors, whom they accuse of corruption and of causing financial losses to the company. They also demanded revision of the salaries of the company's high officials. "The last report of the Central Auditing Organisation signalled many administrative and financial contraventions and this should be investigated. The board of administration is ruining the company," argued Sherif Mansour.
According to the workers, who held a press conference in parallel to the protest, many media outlets simply repeated the "false" accusations of the company's administration.
The workers say Abdel Rahim was visiting the Opera branch, and employees gathered to tell him their demands. He went to an office in the building and sent them a messenger, telling them he would not succumb to any of their demands. "So the workers started a sit-in in front of his office, but nobody attacked him. He locked himself in from inside the room, and didn't want to go out, but he was still able to receive whomever he wanted to," said Mansour.
Later on that night, military police helped Abdel Rahim to leave by cutting into his office from a neighbouring room.
Company management, for its part, denies all allegations of corruption.
"Whoever has proof of administrative or financial corruption by the board of directors should hand it over to the prosecutor general," Emad El-Azhary, Telecom Egypt's first executive vice president, told the Masrawy online news portal last week.
Telecom Egypt, a public monopoly of fixed landlines, provides 70 per cent of Internet service in Egypt, and is the sole provider of international phone services. The company also owns 45 per cent of mobile-phone operator Vodafone Egypt.
ahramonline, Tues Oct 18 2011
Occupy Wall Street has captured the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost hope that our nation's policymakers are speaking for them. We support the protesters in their determination to hold Wall Street accountable and create good jobs. We are proud that today on Wall Street, bus drivers, painters, nurses and utility workers are joining students and homeowners, the unemployed and the underemployed to call for fundamental change. Across America, working people are turning out with their friends and neighbors in parks, congregations and union halls to express their frustration – and anger -- about our country's staggering wealth gap, the lack of work for people who want to work and the corrupting of our politics by business and financial elites. The people who do the work to keep our great country running are being robbed not only of income, but of a voice. It is time for all of us—the 99 percent—to be heard.
As we did when we marched on Wall Street last year, working people call on corporations, big banks, and the financial industry to do their part to create good jobs, stop foreclosures and pay their fair share of taxes.
· Wall Street and corporate America must invest in America: Big corporations should invest some of the $2 trillion in cash they have on hand, and use it to create good jobs. And the banks themselves should be making credit more accessible to small businesses, instead of parking almost $1 trillion at the Federal Reserve.
· Stop foreclosures: Banks should write down the 14 million mortgages that are underwater and stop the more than 10 million pending foreclosures to stop the downward spiral of our housing markets and inject more than $70 billion into our economy.
· Fund education and jobs by taxing financial speculation: A tiny tax on financial transactions could raise hundreds of billions in revenue that could fund education and create jobs rebuilding our country. And it would discourage speculation and encourage long term investment.
We will open our union halls and community centers as well as our arms and our hearts to those with the courage to stand up and demand a better America.
Contact: (202) 637-5018
AFL-CIO, Wed Oct 5 2011