The defeat of an anti-union law in Ohio is giving Democrats hope that organized labor could be a force in the 2012 elections.
"What happened in Ohio matters everywhere," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the Associated Press. "I think the governors in the other states ought to take heed of this and if they don't, they do so at their own peril."
The law, known as Senate Bill 5, would have mandated a sweeping overhaul of Ohio’s 28-year-old collective-bargaining law by ending binding arbitration to settle contracts with safety employees, ban strikes for other public workers, set payments for health insurance and pensions, and strongly tip the balance of power in negotiations to elected governing bodies. If ratified, Senate Bill 5 would have affected more than 300,000 Ohio state workers.
But 61 percent of the Ohio voters on the Nov. 8 off-year election rejected the measure.
Now that it’s been defeated, Ohio Democrats want to make sure it stays that way and are calling for a two-year ban, through a constitutional amendment, on attempts to reintroduce SB 5 or a similar law.
"It's not about protecting the outcome," state Sen. Capri Cafaro, the senate majority leader, said at a press conference, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's about protecting the will of the people."
However, Senate Bill 5 had already paid some dividends for those wanting to see weakened unions. Some state employee unions in Ohio had made concessions that they feared they would be forced to accept if Senate Bill 5, engineered by Gov. John Kasich (R), had been ratified.
Meanwhile, tea party activists in the state are pushing for a “right to work” amendment to the state’s constitution. That measure would prohibit unions and employers from agreeing to contract that would compel employees to join unions or pay union dues as a condition of employment.
"This has everything to do with freedom for the worker," Chris Littleton, co-founder of the Ohio Liberty Council told the AP. "It doesn't address anything else except for the idea that you should be free to choose whether or not you want to participate in a labor organization."
Despite that, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sees it as a huge victory and one that shows that Republicans “insult” to working families was not taken lightly.
The defeat of “some of the most anti-worker legislation we’ve seen in a very long time is further evidence that Ohioans and the American people are tired of Republican attempts to force middle class Americans to bear the burden for deficit reduction at the federal level and balancing budgets at the state level without asking the special interests and the wealthiest few to pay their fair share, Brad Woodhouse, DNC communications director, said in a statement.