Report Details ALEC’s Influence in Ohio Lawmaking

by Mike Gillis, Ohio AFL-CIO – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

A new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Ohio reveals the deep ties between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Ohio state lawmakers.

ALEC in Ohio: The Corporate Special Interests that Help Write Ohio’s Laws, demonstrates ALEC’s policymaking influence with an in-depth analysis of the organization’s ties to key Ohio lawmakers, as well as a side-by-side comparison of nine ALEC “model” bills and actual Ohio legislation, including:

  • Attacks on workers by severely limiting collective bargaining, eliminating public employment through outsourcing and privatizing government functions;
  • Diminishing public education through private school voucher programs and private scholarship tax credits;
  • Encouraging the privatization of state prisons to benefit the private prison industry;
  • Voter suppression bills designed to disenfranchise thousands of eligible Americans;
  • Draconian anti-immigrant measures that criminalize undocumented workers and penalize their employers;
  • Creation of barriers for consumers and injured parties in seeking justice from corporations in a court of law;
  • Measures to prevent implementation of health care reform.

At a press conference releasing the report, Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga explained ALEC’s influence over many legislative initiatives, including SB 5, which repealed collective bargaining rights for Ohio public employees (and which Ohio voters overwhelmingly overturned in a 2011 ballot intiative). “When Ohioans overwhelmingly rejected SB 5 last year, they sent a clear message that they will not tolerate attacks on Ohio’s middle class,” said Burga.

They rejected the idea that our economic problems are the result of the workers’ rights to collectively bargain. They fully rejected that extreme political agenda and opted instead to support governance with basic fairness.

Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, noted Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s ties to ALEC.

Ohio is led by ALEC alum John Kasich, who has long advanced the agenda of ALEC corporations to the detriment of American citizens during his time in Congress and now in the statehouse in the Buckeye state.

Burga called for legislators to cut their ties with ALEC and align themselves more closely with the interests of those they were elected to represent.

What is needed is an agenda that focuses on doing the most good for the most Ohioans rather than legislating for the narrow benefit of so few.

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Don’t Stop Now

The following is a guest post from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

This is a big moment for Ohio. On Tuesday you showed the entire country that we won’t accept attacks on Ohio’s middle class.

After months of gathering petition signatures, going door to door, making phone calls, and talking to your friends and neighbors you have defeated the special interests and overturned Senate Bill 5.

You showed shadowy out of state special interest groups who poured millions into Ohio on attack ads against Ohio’s working families that we don’t accept dirty political tricks and misinformation campaigns.

From the emergency room nurse in Cleveland to the firefighter in Zanesville to the teachers in Cincinnati, Akron, and Chillicothe—our public workers deserve a voice. They deserve a seat at the table when it comes to their safety, working conditions, to their benefits, and livelihoods. Thanks to you, they will still have those rights.

I thank you for all your hard work. But I do have an important message: don’t stop now.

Already those same right wing front groups are readying their millions to go after those of us who stood with you during this fight and Ohio will be one of their favorite targets. They’re going to come after us because we want to create jobs, protect Medicare and Social Security, and rebuild Ohio’s manufacturing base by standing up to China.

But let me tell you this. Because of what you did in Ohio, first by gathering 1.3 million signatures and then turning out in huge numbers to vote No on Issue 2, they are starting to listen.

And that’s why I ask you: don’t stop now.

Make your voice heard. Tell your elected officials that in Mansfield, you want good paying jobs. Tell them that in Cincinnati, construction workers shouldn’t wait in unemployment lines while schools and bridges need rebuilding. Tell them that Social Security checks for seniors in Akron are more important than tax loopholes for Wall Street and Big Oil.

And in one loud voice, tell extremists in Columbus to get their hands off your right to vote!

I would like to thank the members of Working America, the largest organization for working people in Ohio, for all that they have done in this fight, and I will continue to stand for all of Ohio workers, as I have done my whole career.

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Don’t Forget About Issue 3

We’re beyond happy about the results of the Ohio vote on collective bargaining rights, as Issue 2 fell and Senate Bill 5 was repealed by a 28-point margin. But unfortunately, an even bigger majority of Ohioans voted yes on Issue 3, an attack on the Affordable Care Act that has dangerous unintended consequences for the Buckeye State’s health care system.

Also known as the “Health Care Freedom Amendment,” Issue 3 was put on the ballot by Tea Party activists who wanted to express their anger at the health care reform bill passed last year. It adds an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that says “no federal, state, or local law shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer of health care provider to participate in a health care system.”

Maybe if the Tea Partiers spent less time talking about the U.S. Constitution and more time reading it, they would notice that Article VI gives federal law precedence over state law; so legally, Issue 3 is merely symbolic rejection of the Affordable Care Act. However, there exist other systems that rely on compulsory participation in a health care system: Workers compensation, COBRA, child support enforcement orders, school immunizations, and college-coverage requirements.

Other policies Ohioans rely on require the submission of health care data or information, which under Issue 3’s sloppy language are illegal: disease tracking, children’s medical records, court-ordered rehabilitation, and tax levies that raise funds for health-related programs.

When Issue 3 passed by a huge margin on Tuesday, how many people knew what they were voting for? More litigation, more paper work, and a possible invalidation of workers compensation and COBRA?

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, which endorsed Issue 2 but rejected Issue 3, describes the newly passed constitutional amendment as a “time bomb.”

Part of that doubtless was Issue 3′s innocuous ballot language that purported to guarantee “freedom” to make health care choices. Everyone loves freedom. But the fine print on Issue 3 actually ties the hands of Ohioans to craft state-level reforms. Even worse, it guarantees uncertainty and litigation because its language appears to limit the state’s ability to act on almost any issue that involves health care or insurance.

Republican leaders in Ohio, however, are highlighting only the political significance of the vote. Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin Dewine gleefully told The Daily Record that “our formal rejection of Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement only further underscores the uphill battle the president and Sherrod Brown presently face on their path to reelection in 2012.”

In Ohio as well as Washington, the priorities of Republican and Tea Party leaders are clear: political victory in 2012. The wave of litigation costs and complications that will fall of the shoulders of working Ohioans be damned.

Photo from Amphis d’@illeurs on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Ohio Results Show Voters Say Focus on Jobs Not Partisan Attacks

by Mike Hall – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Cincinnati Fire Fighter (IAFF) Doug Stern says yesterday’s overwhelming rejection of Gov. John Kaisch’s (R) attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights of workers like fire fighters, nurses, teachers, bridge inspectors and others shows:

the citizens of Ohio spoke and they made it loud and clear that the focus of government should be on creating sustainable middle class jobs, rather than pushing a partisan political agenda.

Stern, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Louise Foresman, a member of Working America from Cleveland, took part in a telephone press conference this afternoon about the stunning victory for working families that sent Issue 2 down to a 61 percent to 39 percent defeat. Says Trumka:

Last night the people of Ohio—from autoworkers to teachers and firefighters to jobless workers—sent a message that will reverberate across the country: politicians need to stop scapegoating workers and pushing an extreme partisan agenda. They need to instead work to create jobs for working people and commit to restoring balance to our economy.

The Ohio victory, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the earlier uprising in Wisconsin and other battles across the nation show, says Trumka, that working families are fighting back against, “the dramatic overreach of many politicians in Ohio and across country. “

Working people will continue to raise their voices. The 99 percent who didn’t get rich while wrecking the American economy have decided to stand up for ourselves and demand a fair share.

Foresman, who works in a non-unionized workplace, says she believed Issue 2 was an

attack on all working people…Our governor is fond of saying that “A rising tide lifts all boats”…But what he was proposing would have lowered all boats…our boats can’t afford anymore holes. A lot of people who voted against Issue 2 are not unionized.

Polling by Hart Associates for the AFL-CIo backs her up. It shows that non-union voters opposed Issue 2 by a 52 to 48 percent margin. In addition, moderate voters voted “No” by a 70 percent to 30 percent edge and independent voters lined up against Issue 2 by 57 percent to 43 percent. Overall, voters polled say they believe public employees should have collective bargaining rights by a 66 percent to 27 percent.

The Ohio victory “matters everywhere,” says Trumka.

What you can take away from yesterday is that working people, the 99 percent, are standing up to corporate CEO’s to say, “Enough.”

Voters elsewhere also cast their ballots against Republican overreach, including in Arizona, where citizens recalled Russell Pearce, the Republican president of the state senate known who drafted the state’s extreme anti-immigrant law. In Maine, voters repealed a new law enacted by state Republicans to end a 40-year state tradition of allowing people to register the same day as voting. In Kentucky, state Senate President David Williams—a “clone” of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—was easily defeated by incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D).

Photo by Progress Ohio on Flickr, via Creative Commons

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November 8, 2011: The 99 Percent Strike Back

For political newcomers, here’s what you need to know: the good guys won.

Not only did we win. We won big. We won in friendly territory and difficult terrain. And the credit for our victories belongs firmly to the working men and women – union and non-union alike – who were fighting for their rights, their jobs, their values, and their future.

When John Kasich was sworn in as Ohio’s Governor at the beginning of this year, he didn’t immediately focus on job creation, as he had promised during the 2010 campaign. Instead, he launched a full scale attack on the rights of Ohio’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public workers. Senate Bill 5 was signed into law, restricting the collective bargaining rights of over 350,000 workers in Ohio.

What happened next was incredible. Working Ohioans joined petition drives all across the state to get a repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot. Among them were Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and moderates who were outraged over Kasich’s overreach and callousness toward the working people of the Buckeye State; the idea that public workers should serve as an ATM while corporations saw tax reductions offended them. Many police officers and firefighters who traditionally voted for Republicans joined the effort against SB 5; they knew that public safety workers, not politicians, know best about the staff and equipment they need to protect Ohio’s communities.

In June, 1.3 million signatures to repeal SB 5 were delivered to the Secretary of State in Columbus. It became Issue 2 on the ballot.

John Kasich’s allies, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, and a host of other shadowy out-of-state groups, poured millions into Ohio to protect Senate Bill 5. They tried every dirty trick in the book. But in the end, Issue 2 was defeated by a massive 21 point margin. In fact, more people voted to repeal Senate Bill 5 than to elect Governor Kasich. We’ll have more on what this Ohio victory means later today.

In June, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed LD 1376, which banned the practice of registering to vote on Election Day. Same-day registration had been in place in Maine for 38 years without any problems, but backers claimed it would “cut down on election day mistakes,” and “cuts down on voter fraud.” Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster was less subtle, saying same-day registration allowed Democrats to “intentionally steal elections.” Did Webster fail to notice Maine’s two Republican U.S. Senators and Republican Governor? This was just another attack in the nationwide war on voting rights, which has spread to Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and many other states.

Luckily a collection of organizations including the Maine People’s Alliance and Working America formed Protect Maine Votes, and gathered 70,000 signatures to restore same-day registration. Question 1 on yesterday’s ballot passed by a wide margin, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. With last nights victory, the people of Maine have started the fight back against the war on voting.

In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, Democrat Rich Fitzgerald defeated Republican D. Raja to become the next County Executive. The election was not close – Fitz was up 25 percentage points when they called it.

Why does this matter? County Executives often become candidates for statewide office. The Democratic candidate for governor in 2010, Dan Onorato, was Allegheny County Executive. In Wisconsin, a certain Mr. Scott Walker held the seat of Milwaukee County Executive from which he launched his gubernatorial campaign.

It’s what Chris Savage calls “the little recall that could.” Of all the races last night, it was the recall of anti-teacher Michigan Rep. Paul Scott that faced the steepest climb.

Paul Scott is the kind of politician we all wish we could remove from office: Ambitious, ideological, and a outspoken opponent of his state’s teachers and teachers’ union. His attacks on education as the Chair the House Education Committee lead to a grassroots campaign to unseat him. Of the 47 attempts to recall Michigan legislators this year, only Paul Scott’s succeeded.

The story then has a lot of legal twists and turns. But for us, the most amazing part of this story happened last night, when the recall passed by 197 votes out of 24,371 cast. Talk about “every vote matters!”

Iowa has a Republican Governor and a rabidly conservative House. The lower chamber in Iowa has passed measures attacking the state healthcare system, making huge cuts in education, and restrictions in collective bargaining rights.

The only reason Iowa hasn’t become the next Wisconsin or Ohio is because of the Democratic-controlled State Senate, where they have a margin of one. Last night, that majority was preserved when Democrat Liz Mathis won a special election for the decisive Senate seat with 56 percent of the vote, despite some really gross tactics on the part of her opponents.

State Senate President Russell Pearce was known as a key mover and shaker behind Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. He was also an opponent of workers’ rights, once “joking” that he wanted to throw union protestors in desert tent prisons. We didn’t find that joke very funny, and neither did the people of Arizona. By a seven point margin, voters removed Pearce from office and replaced him with moderate Republican Jerry Lewis.

Did we miss any races? What were you watching last night? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WorkingAmerica.

Image courtesy of Progress Ohio.

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Working America Statement On Ohio Victory For Working Families

It started in Wisconsin with a rejection of an assault on workers’ rights and carried on throughout this fall with the energy of the 99% on display all across the country. With tonight’s defeat of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s anti-worker legislation SB-5, our country is turning the corner on the attack on working families and the 99%. This is a confirmation that the people of Ohio, whether union or nonunion, whether Democrat or Republican, overwhelmingly support the fundamental right of workers to have a say in their working conditions.

The defeat of SB-5 is a victory for all working people– from Lancaster to Toledo, Canton to Cincinnati –who were part of a massive grassroots effort to overturn this bill. Working America organizers, members and volunteers visited the homes of nearly 400,000 working class people across Ohio. Members, who don’t have a union on the job, sent thousands of emails and letters to lawmakers and their local news media, friends and neighbors, all in an effort to protect jobs and democracy by shutting down this legislation.

Tonight, Ohioans showed that scapegoating teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers won’t work, and that the 99 percent want politicians who work for them. Anything else, they will reject.

Tonight at the ballot box, clearly and loudly, they did just that.

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Huge Crowd for Ed Schultz in Ohio Shows Enthusiasm Against Issue 2

Talk show and radio host Ed Schultz broadcasted live from the Ohio Professional Firefighters in Columbus, Ohio last night, backed by an enormous crowd. Ed devoted the grand majority of his show to discussing Senate Bill 5, on the ballot as Issue 2, and was frequently by cheers from the throng behind him, many waving “No On 2” signs.

The clip above features big names like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and former Governor Ted Strickland. Later in the show, Ed spoke to local union leaders, including Sean Grayson of AFSCME Council 8. Ed played the now widely circulated comments of Ohio Rep. Lou Blessing, who said that public workers deserve a pay cut and Republican legislators don’t; Blessing snidely added “I earn my pay.”

To debunk Blessing’s arrogant and inaccurate assertions, Grayson spoke to the concessions that public employees have made for their fellow Ohioans already:

Collective bargaining works. Collective bargaining has worked in this state since 2008. Public servants in this state have given back to taxpayers over $8 billion in losses in pay and benefits, in unpaid furlough days and increases in health care costs. They know that Ohio is hurting and they have sacrificed. What this comment says is “we don’t have to sacrifice.”

Public employees are not an ATM machine. You can’t keep going back to their wallets time and time again and expect them to keep being able to perform their jobs.

That’s what makes this vote on Issue 2 so important. It treats workers – in this case public workers like firefighters and teachers – as commodities, not people. It treats their pensions, wages, and benefits like a piggy bank that politicians like Gov. Kasich can continue to dip into to fund what they please; be it highway privatization, tax breaks, or whatever their wealthy donors desire.

But what Kasich and the folks at Building A Better Ohio don’t understand is that their view of Middle Class workers as a source of cash for pet projects doesn’t resonate outside of the 0.1 percent bubble. What they don’t get is that people above all want fairness for their friends, neighbors, and family members. That’s why ultimately they’ll lose.

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Occupy a Voting Booth, Vote No on Issue 2, and Defeat John Kasich

If you’re angry at the financial industry, corporate-controlled media, and the enormous control they have over our elected officials and our national policies, consider the story of Ohio Governor John Kasich – a product and wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and Fox News – and Issue 2. A vote for No on Issue 2 is a vote against Wall Street, Kasich, and the war on working families they continue to wage.

John Kasich served as a Republican Congressman from Ohio for 18 years.  Once out, he used his political connections to get a job with the now-infamous Lehman Brothers’ investment banking firm, where he remained until the firm imploded in September 2008. Even though Lehman Brothers’ collapsed and thousands of Americans lost their investments, Kasich received a salary of $182,692 and a performance bonus of $432,000 – almost ten times Ohio’s median household income.

Also during his post-Congress years, Kasich used his political and financial connections to get his own program on Fox News, and filled in regularly for Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Kasich continued to appear as a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel during his 2010 run for governor, and Fox personalities “lauded, defended, and fundraised for his campaign.” (Said Glenn Beck to Kasich on his radio show: “I think I love you.”)

Given this background, it’s no surprise that in less than a year Governor Kasich has shown himself to be one of the most anti-worker, pro-corporate executives in Ohio’s history. His signature legislative achievement, Senate Bill 5 (on the ballot as Issue 2), strips collective bargaining rights from over 300,000 of public workers, including police officers, firefighters, nurses, and teachers. In addition to Issue 2, Kasich has moved to privatize state services and property, including the Ohio Turnpike, while at the same time cutting taxes for already profitable large businesses.

What was harder to predict is the blatant callousness and open disrespect Kasich has shown to Ohio’s public servants. He said of those who opposed his agenda “If you’re not on the bus, we’ll run over you with the bus.” He called a police officer who gave him a ticket an “idiot” – not privately, but in front of a large crowd. In an odd delusion of grandeur, he demanded teachers unions take out a full page ad apologizing for not supporting his campaign. According to one source, he even openly referred to Senate Bill 5 as a “war” on public employees.

It appears that Kasich believes that no matter what he says, the friends he has made along the way – the Koch Brothers, the Wall Street hedge-funders, his friends at Fox News – will be there to defend him, fund him, and aid his continuing assault on the very people who make Ohio function.

Tomorrow, Ohioans will take to the polls to vote on Issue 2. A “Yes on 2” keeps the corporate-backed, politically-motivated attack on over 300,000 Ohio workers. “No on 2” repeals the measure.

We admire and support those who have taken to the streets in New York City and elsewhere as part of #OccupyWallStreet and the 99 Percent Movement. But if John Kasich succeeds and Senate Bill 5 is kept, it will be a victory for the Wall Street investors and Fox News spin-artists that have pushed Kasich for his whole career – and it will be a another defeat for American workers.

Remember the saying: “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” If you want to lay down a marker for the 99 Percent, show Governor Kasich and his corporate backers that the War on Workers doesn’t pay. Occupy a field office. Occupy a voting booth. Defeat John Kasich, defeat Wall Street and the 1 percent; help us turn the tide.

Photo courtesy of ProgressOhio on Flickr, via Creative Commons

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Occupy Cleveland Joins With Ohio Workers Against Issue 2

Stephanie Harig – Cleveland, Ohio

Here in Ohio, we are naturally focused almost exclusively on defeating Issue 2, which as you well know by now is the ballot referendum on Senate Bill 5, the legislation that removed the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s public workers. By voting No on Issue 2, we reject Senate Bill 5.

We are now one week from Election Day and the efforts are only continuing to ramp up. By next Tuesday, some of our canvassers will have worked 16 out of the last 17 days leading up to the election. In addition, we have been bringing Working America members out to volunteer phone bank multiple times a week.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to bring our opposition to Issue 2 and our support for Occupy Cleveland together. I went with Dan O’Malley, our Field Director, and Jeremy Johnston, our Office Manager, to give a “Teach-In” on Issue 2. The crowd was small and cold, but dedicated and sincerely interested in hearing our perspective on this ballot issue.

We huddled in the only tent allowed to be up 24/7 – a medium-sized white one – and I began by talking about Working America and our support for the Occupy movement. The Occupy folks were very excited to learn that our Executive Director, Karen Nussbaum, is on board with their message, and I shared the news articles that quote Karen discussing Occupy and Working America. I also left copies for them to share with other activists who may be in and out.

I passed the proverbial mic to Dan, and he discussed Issue 2 and why this attack on workers’ rights is bad for public safety, economic fairness, and the wellness of working families in Ohio. Our captive audience asked a few questions, and we discussed further how this issue affects all of us, not just the public workers whose rights are at risk. The moment of solidarity between the “No on 2” campaign and Occupy Cleveland was critical, both for the campaign as we enter the final week, and for the Occupiers as they struggle to keep their numbers up in the bitter Cleveland cold.

Also present at the teach-in was Martha Dus, a Working America member, who expressed her agreement with what we were saying during the teach-in. Martha is a classic example of our many members who fully support the message of the Occupy movement, but who cannot be out there with the activists regularly: she is elderly, and very vulnerable to ear and respiratory infections. After the teach-in, I checked in with Martha about her experience there. She thanked me for inviting her. “It was a good outing for me” she said, “The People of America have serious work to do if we are to get out from under the money manipulators. Think positive!”

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Ohio Union Volunteers Turning Up the Heat on Issue 2

(by Andy Richards – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog)

From small towns like Portsmouth on the banks of the Ohio River in the south to big cities like Cleveland bordering Lake Michigan in the north and all around the Buckeye State, union members are hitting the doors and the phone banks to make sure working families cast a “No” vote on Issue 2 Nov. 8.

Issue 2 would repeal S.B. 5, the law passed this spring that takes away the right of public employees to collectively bargain for a middle-class life.

In Cleveland, AFT President Randi Weingarten told the more than 800 members from dozens of unions who volunteered Saturday:

[Ohio Gov. John] Kasich, [WI Gov. Scott] Walker, [FL Gov. Rick] Scott, [IN Gov. Mitch] Daniels and many others are trying to strip working people of their rights, that’s their goal. But we’re not going to let that happen. We are going to fight back, give workers and the community their voice back and in the next 10 days do everything we can to bring Issue 2 home.

Before elementary school teacher Denise Riley headed out to knock on doors, she told the activists:

Issue 2 compromises our children’s education because we won’t have a say about how many children should be in a classroom to make sure they get the quality education they need and deserve. We know that smaller class sizes yield better test results and teachers can better attend to students needs with smaller class sizes.

In Toledo, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 President John Lyall spoke with several hundred union members, saying that while polls show strong support for defeating Issue 2:

It is not the time to be dancing in the end zone. When they [right-wing front groups like Americans for Prosperity] dump in, and they will, another $10 to $20 million in Ohio, it will tighten this election. Now it is our turn, now it is our moment. The entire labor movement has their eyes fixed on Ohio. They are looking here to be the place where union bashing finally stops.

Bob Baker, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) executive vice president, said to Cincinnatti volunteers:

Make no mistake about it, this is about Gov. Kasich’s wealthy friends trying to push down any chance of any one being in the middle class, and right now union representation is the only hope we’ve got of maintaining anything.

Union volunteers also walked and phone banked in Akron, Ashland, Canton, Chillicothe, Columbus, Dayton, Findlay, Lima, Lorian, Mansfield, Marion, Newark, Niles, The Plains, Portsmouth, Reno, Sandusky, St. Clairsville, and Vandalia.

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