By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has put Ohio Gov. John on the spot by signing into law right-to-work legislation.
That means Michigan workers cannot be forced, as a condition of employment, to join a labor union or pay the union dues unless they really want to.
The move was an about-face for Snyder, who publicly resisted backing right to work when he campaigned for governor and during the first half of his term.
Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press said Snyder was forced to change his mind for two reasons:
Frustration with labor as an impediment rather than a partner in fixing Michigan.
And frustration with himself for his naivete in not realizing it earlier.
Walsh said organized labor has hamstrung efforts to rescue insolvent cities and school districts while stonewalling attempts at saving nearly bankrupt Detroit, which as of early this year had 65 people working full-time just handling payroll for its police department.
The state, already in peril after eight years of fiscal irresponsibility and drift under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, was rapidly approaching the point of becoming ungovernable, almost entirely because of organized labor’s intransigence.
Right to work, though not the entire answer by, a long shot, helps create an environment for employment growth in a state where the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is north of 9 percent.
In Ohio, Kasich must deal with the fact that neighboring Indiana and Michigan have upped the ante in the contest for jobs, growth and improved standards of living by enacting right to work. The governor also must deal with the fact that he has been publicly unreceptive to a related grass-roots ballot initiative. In February, he called it a “massive change” that would require “a couple years explaining to people what it even means and why it’s important to them.” The reluctance, while somewhat understandable, is still indefensible.
Despite a strong record of economic improvement in Ohio during his two years as governor and significant improvement in his approval rating, Kasich is smarting from the November 2011 defeat of Issue 2, also known as SB5. In retrospect, it’s clear that Kasich and the Legislature, in enacting a grab bag of public-sector reforms all at once, tried to accomplish too much. As a result, most Ohioans who are generally sympathetic to reform, were able to find something they didn’t like in the law, thanks to the help of millions of big labor dollars and a disjointed campaign by the issue’s supporters.
But as Ohio’s voters were rejecting Issue 2, they overwhelmingly passed the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment, which added roughly 120 words to the state’s constitution prohibiting the enforcement of any federal or state laws requiring citizens to purchase health insurance. Why? Because it was easy to understand and is consistent with the freedom-loving instincts of most of the state’s residents.
So is right to work. Michigan’s new law takes up less than three pages. The constitutional amendment language submitted by Ohioans for Workplace Freedom, which has been certified as “fair and truthful” by Attorney General Mike DeWine, is less than one page, and the related ballot language the group hopes to get onto the November 2013 ballot is roughly 180 words.
Kasich needs to stop licking his wounds and focus harder on Ohio’s long-term future, either by getting behind the right-to-work effort or persuading the Legislature to enact its own law. Otherwise the state he claims to love, with its bloated public sector, may become ungovernable despite his best efforts.