We are in an economic tragedy. All of the current economic problems can be put at the feet of those that have been out to destroy whatever leverage workers have in maintaining a middle class life style. The bank failures, the housing bubble, the declining middle class wages and salaries cause the government deficits and debts. The decline of unions has led to the decline of the middle class, which is destroying the social fabric of this country.
On Tuesday Ohio became the epicenter of the fight to save workers’ rights in this country. Governor Kasich is one of many right-wing governors supporting legislation denying collective bargaining. These attempts to destroy unions would lead to a further decline in middle class income. Millions of Ohioans headed to the polls Tuesday to determine whether Governor Kasich or working people should have the final say in joining a union. Ballot Issue 2, an effort to overturn Governor Kasich’s attempt to undermine collective bargaining, was put on the ballot after the large petition gathering effort in our nation’s history. And on Tuesday Ohioans overwhelmingly voted “no” on Issue 2 and “yes” to protecting their right to join a union.
The struggles of the Ohio public sector workers are nothing new. Many cite the real beginning of the decline of American labor as 1980 when President Reagan caused the Airport Traffic Controller Union to disappear, by firing their members. An attack on all private commenced and we are still seeing the impact today. When firing didn't work sufficiently, they just closed the plants and moved out of the country. There is no evidence that all of the companies that have moved jobs out of the United States do so because they faced bankruptcy. All of them were making a profit. They just decided that if there were no unions to bargain with they could make more money. The fact is only did membership in unions decline, but also so did the relative income of the middle class.
Without unions, the middle class will continue to disappear and the wealth disparity will increase. In many ways, Tuesday’s vote determined the fate of all Americans, and not just Ohio public sector workers. Ohio make their point loud and clear: the middle class will continue to fight.
Ken Ehrenthal is a member of the South Hampton Roads chapter of Virginia Organizing. He is a retired high school history teacher and spends his time advocating for workers' rights and a variety of social issues.