26 August 2011

Busting the union-busting bills

Anti-union legislation has been all the rage in the U.S. following last November's election of a number of right-wing governors. Most notorious is Wisconsin's Scott Walker, infamous for his polarizing union law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Ohio governor John Kasich hasn't received similar attention, but his Bill 5 (SB5) has been an equally savage an attack on workers' rights.

Kasich is not, however, having as much success in putting his bill into action. Ohio activists, led by the coalition group We Are Ohio, took advantage of the state's Citizen Veto law that gave them 90 days to collect enough signatures to stop the bill going into effect until voters had a chance to vote on it themselves. They needed 231,149 signatures; they collected 1.3 million, the greatest signature collection drive in the history of the state. The bill will be put on the ballot in the November election. The governor now wants to compromise and called for a meeting with union leaders and others opposed to the bill. They formally rejected any deal with the governor until the bill is repealed.

Public Policy Polling now has Kasich with only 36 per cent approval, lowest in the country except for Florida's Rick Scott. Scott, another right-wing union-basher, is currently besieged with lawsuits attacking his often bizarre legislation. Three unions representing state workers are suing the state, claiming it violated its contractual obligations and broke the law. Scott has already had his wrists slapped by the Florida Supreme Court who ruled he had “overstepped his constitutional authority” and “violated the separation of powers” on another matter.

And as for Wisconsin and Governor Walker, there too the anti-union legislation is facing legal challenges. This summer, two Republican senators were bounced out of office in recall elections because of Walker's bill, the first time in American history more than one state legislator has been recalled at the same time over the same issue.

This vigorous opposition to anti-union legislation is encouraging. A proper democratic society includes democracy in the workplace and unions are the major source of that democracy.

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