Most of Ohio’s big unions had already endorsed gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and the rest of the statewide Democrat slate by the end of 2013, before FitzGerald dropped Sen. Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati) from the ticket and gained a primary challenger.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune announced on December 30 that he was entering the race for the Democrat nomination, after a media firestorm over more than $800,000 in unpaid taxes prompted Kearney to exit the campaign weeks after becoming FitzGerald’s running mate.
Prior to that date, FitzGerald had the public backing of many of the union bosses whose financial and rhetorical support is the lifeblood of the Ohio Democratic Party.
“He wants to make Ohio a leader in attracting employers that pay a living wage and offer good benefits,” several of Ohio’s largest United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) locals said in a September 23 endorsement.
“And he will always protect workers’ fundamental right to form a union,” UFCW added.
The UFCW endorsement — like practically every Big Labor rally or press release in the past two years — was replete with references to 2011’s Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), which would have limited government unions’ power but would have in no way made it more difficult for anyone to unionize.
Unions have strained to tie workplace freedom, a policy that could be on the horizon in the legislature or through the Ohioans for Workplace Freedom campaign, to SB 5.
Though Governor John Kasich has been assuring union bosses he will not advance workplace freedom, it is clear they want to replace Kasich and frame his support for SB 5 as his downfall.
FitzGerald netted endorsements from the Ohio AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 in October, from the Ohio Education Association (OEA) in November, and from the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) and Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) in December.
“He will stand up and protect workers when they are threatened by extreme interests that attack our rights,” Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga said. Burga was paid $140,420 in 2011.
“The days of tax cuts for the rich at the expense of vital public services and the rights of Ohioans must come to an end,” SEIU 1199 President Becky Williams said. Williams was paid $123,868 in 2012.
Ohio AFL-CIO, SEIU 1199, OFT, and OCSEA — a local of the powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — also endorsed the presumptive Democrat nominees for Ohio’s other four statewide offices when they endorsed FitzGerald.
The unions expressed confidence that auditor candidate John Patrick Carney, treasurer candidate Connie Pillich, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner, and attorney general candidate David Pepper would each serve the working class better than the Republican incumbents they are challenging.
What this means is that Ohio’s biggest unions will, true to form, be funneling member dues into FitzGerald’s, Carney’s, Pillich’s, Turner’s, and Pepper’s campaigns with the expectation that the Democrat slate will back policies beneficial to Big Labor.
Media Trackers will continue to monitor union campaign spending in Ohio, as unions represent a far more monolithic special interest than the corporations or conservative activist groups union bosses demonize.