US unions win key vote against austerity
Early this morning we got the great news that the US trade union movement has won a fantastic victory at the ballot box, overturning an Ohio law that would have slashed public sector workers’ terms and conditions and denied them collective bargaining rights. The referendum was considered by the Financial Times to have been a key showdown between organised labour and the pro-austerity, anti-union right wing. Ohio electors voted 63%-37% (an outstanding margin in what is a swing state in Presidential elections) to overturn the law.
The law would have banned strikes by Ohio’s 350,000 public sector workers, restricted collective bargaining generally, required public sector workers to pay at least 15% of their healthcare premiums and a further 10% of their salaries in pension contributions, reduced sick leave and capped annual leave at 5 weeks a year (in each of these cases, some groups of workers have secured better terms through collective bargaining that would henceforth have been denied them). Ohio Governor and Tea Party supporter John Kasich, who backed the law, came into office pledged to slash the state’s budget deficit, but started out with tax breaks for big business, blaming public sector workers’ terms and conditions for the deficit and trying to split private and public sector workers – a tactic that failed, due to union campaigning.
Having failed to block the bill with demonstrations and protests, Ohio unions turned to the ballot box, collecting 1.3 million signatures to force a referendum (a bit of overkill – they only needed 231,000!) And after weeks of campaigning, with support for Ohio unions from the national AFLCIO (similar national support was provided on the other side of the argument), the people of Ohio have spoken decisively.
AFLCIO President Rich Trumka said:
Ohioans from all backgrounds and political parties rejected the crazy notion that the 99 percent — nurses, bridge inspectors, firefighters,and social workers — caused the economic collapse, rather than Wall Street.