Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ohio supports workers' rights -- will Wisconsin next spring?

Recall election presents different challenges than citizens' veto in Ohio

Last night, in an unprecedented vote for workers' rights, citizens in Ohio chose to restore collective bargaining for state employees.

Similar in nature to the law passed in Wisconsin earlier this year, Ohio's law went even further, not only removing the rights of state workers (like teachers, social workers, prison guards, etc.) but also the rights of emergency response employees (such as police officers, firefighters and EMT, and so on).

But Ohioans rejected the measuring by overwhelming margins. Collective bargaining remains a protected right in the Buckeye State, meaning its governor cannot impose undue concessions without offering an agreeable package to his workers. Negotiation, not dictation, remains the preference of Ohio voters.

In Wisconsin, we're not as fortunate -- we lack the ability to force a citizens' veto on legislation we deem improper. Instead, we are able to recall specific officials, based on their conduct or their policies, with their removal contingent upon the majority's preference of an entirely new candidate within a special election.

That can make things more difficult. People can be upset with specific pieces of legislation easier than they can be with a singular politician. A recall isn't a yes-or-no vote on a singular issue, but rather a change in vision (if we support the challenger) versus an acceptance of the status quo (if we support the incumbent).

In Gov. Scott Walker, however, there's no need to worry -- he provides many reasons for a recall, beyond even what ignited the call for his removal. We've witnessed such a radical departure from our state's values from our governor that a recall isn't only justified -- it may well be necessary at this point, required to preserve a familiar ideal of what our state has represented for many generations.

It's not just the collective bargaining at this point -- it's a big part of it, but the issue has been overshadowed by a combination of factors presented by this governor, months of overreach that the people of this state are starting to recognize will hurt Wisconsin. Here's just a few to consider:
  • He has proven himself either inept or corrupt in surrounding himself with political allies, relying on his cronies or donors to his campaign for advice on whom to appoint for government positions. Walker has also ignored more qualified applicants (with plenty of experience, education, and other positive marks) in favor of his friends.
  • He has requested enormous sacrifices from working Wisconsinites, cutting by billions of dollars programs meant to assist those of modest means, including BadgerCare, Family Care, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others. The governor also forced education in the state to face a billion-dollar shortfall. Meanwhile, during this "necessary" budget crunch, the sacrifice has been anything but shared: Walker has cut taxes for corporations by hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • His major promise -- job creation -- has floundered, despite the tax breaks to the rich and tort reform to the corporate elite that he claimed could spur a quarter of a million jobs by the end of his first term. The number of citizens employed in Wisconsin is nearly unchanged since his first month in office.
These factors (and several others), taken on their own, might not be enough to warrant a recall; but taken together, in conjunction with the removal of rights for state workers, and Walker provides more justification than is necessary for his removal from office, with room to spare.

The case against Walker is clear -- and if the results in Ohio are any indication of how Wisconsin will vote, the governor should start planning for life after the governor's mansion, ahead of schedule.

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