Originally when Governor Walker in Wisconsin started taking on the unions I remember a brief thread with Dan about why the governor didn’t include firefighters and police in his union collective bargaining reforms. The answer is that in hindsight it was a great way to divide the opposition to union reforms and remove the left of their most obvious rallying points, especially after 9/11.
In Ohio the reformers in the legislature didn’t try to take 1/2 the pie; they grabbed for the whole pie of reforms and took on everyone, including the firefighters, police and teachers. Their key reforms are very reasonable as summarized in this article:
The legislation affects more than 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers, nurses and other government workers. It sets mandatory health care and pension minimums for unionized government employees, bans public worker strikes, scraps binding arbitration and prohibits basing promotions solely on seniority.
What union government workers have found elsewhere is that there is little sympathy for the bureaucrats other than the high-profile police and firefighters. Does anyone care if the “worker” across from you at the department of motor vehicles doesn’t get a raise every year just for existing via seniority and has to pay a larger portion of his pension and insurance? No.
Even if the referendum loses in Ohio it is “taking the battle to the heart of the enemy”. The left has captured these government institutions and universities and turned them into reliable bastions of contributions, political workers, and party delegates. They also use these institutions to push their agenda at every turn. And it isn’t sustainable financially, which is becoming more and more obvious every day even in the popular press.
I remember walking by an art school in Chicago during some of the early protests against the Iraq war (which miraculously stopped as soon as Obama was elected, although of course the wars raged on) and the whole institution basically closed (they put a sign on the door) because everyone went to the rally. This was the icon of a captured institution, one of course primarily funded by taxpayer dollars.
In order for the Republicans to win long term they need to go after the left’s areas of power which reside in government and unions and battle them continuously. Even if they periodically lose (as is likely in Ohio) now the left’s machinery has to be turned inward to defend itself instead of outward expanding its reach.
The other key element is that the left’s narrative is losing its power. You don’t hear much anymore about how loyal and selfless the union government workers are, or hardly any arguments about their productivity or effectiveness. It now is more of a clear “class struggle” movement, which over the long term will reduce their ability to “sell” their story to those outside of their umbrella of lifetime benefits without corresponding marketable skills or productivity. Why would a poor worker barely getting by in the private sector be moved to care about their predicament of having to pay 10% more for a lifetime pension, when that poor private sector worker knows he is likely to get little but a busted social security system and even that is a long ways away? The answer is, they won’t. The unions can’t expand their base, they can only defend the fringes, and after time the public is going to get wary of their protesting.
It is similar to the nadir that the private sector union workers face, particularly in car manufacturing. They used to imply that “union made” was a symbol of quality; not so as the non-union south and west now dominates the foreign cars which are cleaning up the higher margin luxury business. With the “two-tier” wage system the “solidarity” of the union came crashing down in howling fashion; never more was it clearer that the union was solely looking to protect its own. How can you sell the narrative of the “two-tier” wage structure under the banner of solidarity – you can’t.
Even if the unions win in Ohio they will still be chipped away; perhaps tackling everything with one fell swoop was too much. Still it is better than Illinois, where we don’t even try to tackle the problems at all, and sink further behind our neighboring states which are putting out the sign that they are open for business.