Union Busting SB5 Rammed Through By Republican Plutarchy in Ohio
While the eyes of the nation have been transfixed on the uprising in Wisconsin, Republicans in Ohio have used an unprecedented parliamentary maneuver to railroad their own version of a union busting bill through the legislature. The unpopular measure known as as SB5 makes public sector strikes illegal and mirrors a savage assault on workers planned throughout the country.
A dozen cookies are put down in front of a CEO, a Tea Partier, and a union member. The CEO grabs 11 then says to the Tea Partier, “That union guy wants your cookie”.
SB5 passed the Ohio by a razor thin 17-16 vote, with 6 Republicans switching sides and voting with Democrats against the bill. Before the vote could take place, SB5 had to clear 2 committees where it didn’t have the votes needed.
That is the point where Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) did something never before done: he made the autocratic decision to remove 1 sympathetic Republican from each committee that was against the measure and replaced them with a Republican Senator that supported it. Niehaus pulled Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) off the Ohio state Senate’s Commerce, Insurance and Labor Committee without warning or Message, which violated Senate Rule 19, replacing him with a an anti-union loyalist Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay). This allowed a 7-5 vote for the measure.
Plutocracy: rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.
Oligarchy: a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.
Plutocracy + Oligarchy = Plutarchy
Repeating this autocratic move a second time, Niehaus also ordered the removal of Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) from the Senate Rules Committee to avoid a split vote. Two decrees to strip committee membership and replace with loyalists is unheard of in the history of American politics.
The passage of SB5 in the Ohio Senate caused an immediate uproar. The bill is severe. It officially does not end collective bargaining rights, but ultimately eradicates the only meaningful recourse behind it if negotiations fail: the strike. SB5 allows the detention and jailing of strikers for 30 days, and mandates a fine of twice their pay for every day they are on the picket line. Reactions were bitter:
“Senate Bill 5 risks firefighters’ and citizens’ lives” -Lt. Mark Sanders, Cincinnnati Fire Dept and President of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters
“We will not support this. If it’s illegal and criminal to strike, you really don’t have any collective bargaining rights at all.” -Joe Schiavoni (D-OH)
“It’s worse than before. We are beside ourselves. This turns it totally political” -Mark Horton, Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters Treasurer
The Ohio Republicans are not even really pretending to be trying to balance the budget at this stage, the attack on public sector unions is quite blatant at this point, and stirred up 10,000 protesters at the capitol in Columbus on Wednesday.
SB5 is the Ohio version of a much larger effort across the nation by conservatives (primarily Republican) who are deliberately creating large debts and a pressing fiscal situation as a tool to attack the last vestige of organized labor in America. Although most corporations often do not pay taxes in America including giants like Exxon-Mobile and Bank Of America, corporate taxation was eliminated in Ohio two years ago, causing massive deficits to erupt, partially leading to the financial pinch the state is in today.
“Starving the beast” is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future reductions in the size of government. The term “beast” refers to the government and the programs it funds, particularly social programs such as welfare, Social Security, Medicare and public schools. -wiki
In Wisconsin, the new Republican majorities are attempting to do the same thing. $140 million in tax cuts for the rich and corporations, along with other measures that reward political loyalists and campaign donors are partially responsible for the crunch. On Tuesday Gov. Scott Walker hid behind the Republican Guard and denied the public access to the capitol in Madison to plead his case with voters, while new polls indicate 62% of America rejects killing collective bargaining rights (81% favor taxing the rich to reduce deficits). Public unions have already agreed to financial concessions there, but are unwilling to sacrifice their collective bargaining rights, creating a stalemate.
This Starve The Beast pattern is familiar in many states at the moment, where new Republican majorities elected to state legislatures as part of the astroturfed Tea Party movement are trying to railroad pro-corporate, pro-rich legislation through chambers at the expense of workers, often in very large bills with little time given to debate or discussion.
This is characteristic of the national policies as well, that have seen a huge ballooning of the national debt under every Republican administration in the last 30 years except Clinton. Tax cuts for the rich and corporations paid for on the backs of the poor and the middle class: America is getting a classic case of buyer’s remorse.
Editor’s note – Photos courtesy of the SEIU Flickr page.