December 2011

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Lessons from Ohio

I've never been prouder to be a Buckeye than I was on Nov. 8 as I watched the election results pour in from my home state. Ohio voters rejected Senate Bill 5—the sweeping legislation that stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers, firefighters and all public employees—by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. After taking it on the chin from extremist politicians and big money special interests, working people stood up and said enough is enough.

What we saw in Ohio was a genuine populist uprising—working families, union and nonunion, coming together to end the scapegoating of our dedicated public servants in the name of an extreme ideological agenda. And it sent a firm message to any candidate looking to follow in Gov. John Kasich's footsteps: Think again.

In 2010, the Tea Party grabbed the banner of grassroots change, exploiting the wave of economic anxiety to help anti-worker politicians like Kasich, Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Florida's Rick Scott squeak by their Democratic opponents.

Promising action on jobs, Walker, Scott and other Tea Party-backed politicians instead spent most of 2011 scoring points with inside-the-beltway corporate interests and right-wing activists. Despite claiming the mantle of the people, Kasich and Walker's brand of faux-populism targeted teachers, not Wall Street; garbage men, not K Street lobbyists; and unions, not big banks, for the economic mess we're in.

The attack on fundamental collective bargaining rights has nothing to do with budgets or taxes—it is pure politics, trying to silence the voice of working families.

But in Ohio, downtown Manhattan and across the nation, working people are changing the narrative, forging a genuine, pro-worker, pro-middle class populism that has forced Washington and the media to take notice. The Occupy Wall Street movement has already focused national attention on the needs of the 99 percent—struggling middle class Americans who are increasingly frustrated by an economic system that is stacked against them. Activists in Ohio turned that energy into change at the ballot box, laying the foundations for a broad movement for economic change that can transform this country for the better.

As we head into the 2012 election and beyond, let's use the energy from Ohio to continue to keep the Wall Street shills on their toes and stay focused on rebuilding the American dream of opportunity and shared prosperity for all.

To quote Kasich himself on election night: "The people have spoken."


Also: Hill: A Winning Formula

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer