Grapes from Thorns

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Workplace Democracy in the Plain Dealer

Right-to-work laws are wrong for Ohio: John T. McNay

RTW laws clearly crush democratic processes established at union workplaces. Every union is established by a democratic vote of the employees, a vote that is carefully and legally monitored to produce a fair and just outcome, writes John T. McNay. (Darron Cummings, Associated Press )
Guest Columnist/ By Guest Columnist/
on January 24, 2014 at 7:04 AM, updated January 24, 2014 at 7:09 AM
Ohioans who value democracy will be right to reject any attempts to impose “right-to-work” laws in the Buckeye State.
Anti-workers groups call these “Workplace Freedom” laws to mislead and deceive voters but they impose anything but freedom on workers.
Why is this true?
RTW laws clearly crush democratic processes established at union workplaces. Every union is established by a democratic vote of the employees, a vote that is carefully and legally monitored to produce a fair and just outcome. Through their vote to unionize, workers win the right to make rules at the workplace regarding how their union is structured and operates. Unionization provides this democratic process to the workers. Contrary to misrepresentations on the right, no one in Ohio is forced to join a union at a workplace. That would be illegal.
Although no one is forced to join the union, unions are required by law to represent everyone in the collective bargaining unit so they are permitted to collect “fair share” fees from workers who choose not to become members. Winning fair pay and benefits from the employer through often arduous negotiations and defending the rights that workers have won through their election to unionize is often a costly process. Union workers rightly believe that everyone who benefits from the operation of the union and the negotiating and defense of the contract should pay for the costs of creating and defending the rights that benefit everyone at the workplace. This is why “fair share” fees, established through democratic processes, are a just exercise in democracy. All of those who choose to work at the unionized workplace have an obligation to contribute their “fair share.”
In addition, every union elects its leaders. Democratic structures are created to allow for self-government in the workplace. These structures allow the workers to have a say in how work is done and projects are accomplished, from staffing, to class size, to safety equipment. In my union, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at the University of Cincinnati, and at AAUP chapters across the state, we push our administrations to focus higher-education resources on the classroom and the laboratory – on instructional purposes rather than administrative bloat, real estate development and sports management. We emphasize the defense of academic freedom and shared governance – the idea that the people who do the work should have a say in how it is done. In every union workplace, the membership exercises their hard-won freedom by voting on important issues confronting the workers. They vote on accepting or not the contract that is negotiated with the employer. If you want to change the rules, you have to win a majority vote. What could be more democratic than that? Union workplaces are obviously operations where freedom and liberty thrive.
And yet, the extremists who purposely mislead by calling their attacks on workplace democracy instead “workplace freedom” persist. One wonders if the wealthy plutocrats and corporate executives behind this assault on democracy would feel the same about their country clubs. How likely is it that they would tolerate a free rider to show up and insist they have a right to golf, use the sauna and lounge on the patio – but don’t have to join and don’t have to pay for any of these privileges?
The wealthy country-clubbers would be outraged. And so should Ohioans be outraged by the assault on democracy in the workplace represented by so-called RTW laws. They are, in fact, an un-American attack on the democratic principles that all Americans cherish.
As President John F. Kennedy said: “Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy.”
Don’t be fooled. Right-to-work is wrong for the working and middle class, wrong for Ohio, wrong for all of us. Reject any extremist attack on workplace democracy.
John T. McNay is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, president of the Ohio Conference, American Association of University Professors, and author of "Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class," published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kasich at UC story

By  Joe Vardon
The Columbus Dispatch Sunday December 15, 2013 6:11 AM
CINCINNATI — Being a material girl (or guy) is “empty,” fame is fleeting and power disappears, Gov. John Kasich told the University of Cincinnati’s fall graduating class yesterday.
“When someone says how much money you make, how important is your job title, you can answer that question,” Kasich said in his commencement speech to about 750 students participating in the ceremony and their families and friends who filled Fifth Third Arena on campus.
The university awarded more than 2,000 degrees this weekend.
“Deep down inside, you know that you are making a difference in someone else’s life,” Kasich continued. “That you’re lifting somebody else and sometimes putting yourself second in the process. You’ll never fail if you follow that advice.”
Kasich, a 1974 graduate of Ohio State University, matched some themes in his speech to the Cincinnati graduates with those he used in his June commencement address to Chardon High School graduates, including the importance of recognizing one’s personal gifts and using them to help others.
Yesterday, Kasich spoke of Albert Lexie, a Pittsburgh-area man with a developmental disability who shines shoes at the local children’s hospital, who has donated more than $200,000 in tips to families struggling to cover medical bills. Kasich also talked about 14-year-old Savannah Day, a Virginia girl who was scheduled to undergo brain surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital last week and had solicited donation of 4,000 toys to give to other hospital patients.
“Love somebody, encourage somebody; it will not be lost,” Kasich said. “It will follow you through eternity.”
Before the governor’s speech, Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono gave Kasich the president’s award for excellence and made some statements the Republican will probably use next year when he seeks re-election.
As he presented the award, Ono said Kasich has “pursued the creation of a jobs-friendly climate, to put more Ohioans into the workforce,” has “closed an $8 billion budget deficit without a (state) tax increase” and “crafted a new higher-education funding formula that is a model for the nation and an envy of my colleagues as presidents across the country.”
While the state has added nearly 143,000 jobs since Kasich took office in January 2011, the state’s labor force — those working as well as the unemployed who are looking for work — has dropped by 93,000 in the same period.
John T. McNay, a registered Democrat and university professor, said in an op-ed column published on Friday on a TV station’s website that Kasich’s appearance “has the trappings of a campaign appearance, which is inappropriate for a graduation.”
McNay also criticized the same Kasich higher-education policy Ono later praised — to more closely align state funding to graduation rates — as having been crafted without consulting faculty members, and a policy that could cut funding to institutions that “arguably need the most financial assistance.”

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John Condo (hiltcondo1)
My niece was there yesterday who a big republican and she said what a big disapointment his speech was
2013-12-15 06:53:41.0
John McNay (JohnMcNay)
President Ono says he is a Democrat, too. This is an issue of the poor judgment involved in providing a current candidate for governor a campaign venue that ought not be politicized.
2013-12-15 16:12:55.0

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kasich wrong choice for UC Commencement

WCPO Guest Editorial, Dec. 13, 2013

By John T. McNay
Ohio Gov. John Kasich will address University of Cincinnati graduates at the annual December Commencement Dec. 14. In addition to speaking to the newly-minted Bearcat alumni, he will receive from President Santa Ono the “Presidential Award for Excellence.”
This has caught many people, including faculty, by surprise - not only because this has the trappings of a campaign appearance, which is inappropriate for a graduation, but also because Kasich’s record on a whole range of issues is not one that really accords with the values of the university. It would have been helpful had faculty been involved in this decision and, hopefully, that will be true in the future.
What “excellence” can we  cite for Kasich?
• Problems surrounding the issues of diversity have surfaced at the university recently and the Ono administration has promised more progress on that front. That makes Gov. Kasich a peculiar choice. From the early days of his administration, the governor has maintained a dismissive attitude toward diversity issues. Gov. Kasich’s nearly all-white cabinet does most definitely not look like Ohio and he has clashed with African-American lawmakers on the issue. Those lawmakers even talked of bringing legal action over the absence of diversity in his administration. When state Sen. Nina Turner, an African-American, pursued the governor on the issue, he responded: “I don’t need your people.” Afterwards, he clarified that he meant “Democrats.”
• The governor’s centerpiece legislation was Senate Bill 5, which was designed to undermine collective bargaining for public employees statewide. That included almost all of the thousands of employees at the University of Cincinnati, including secretaries, food service,  maintenance, and police. And, for the faculty, there was a special provision that would have effectively eliminated the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at UC. Fortunately, Ohioans heavily rejected that attack on the UC community and collective bargaining by a 62-38 percent margin at the ballot box in 2011.
• Then there was House Bill 194, dubbed by many the “voter suppression act,” which Gov. Kasich signed into law that would have sharply restricted access to the polls in Ohio’s elections. Another successful petition gathering effort was launched and, this time, rather than take a drubbing at the polls, the governor and his party repealed their own bill – a first in Ohio history.
• The news media in Ohio has regularly criticized Gov. Kasich because of his penchant for secrecy in government. Especially noteworthy  is the determined effort to conceal the workings of his controversial JobsOhio program, which has involved the privatization of millions of dollars in public money – transactions not subject to open records laws.
• And then there is public education that has been pummeled since the governor took office. Gov. Kasich’s first two-year pass-the-buck-budget cut funding to K-12 public schools by $1.8 billion. Local taxpayers have had to pick up the tab by passing an estimated $1.1 billion in school levies. At the same time, there have been dramatic increases in state funding for corporate charter schools – most of which underperform their public school counterparts. Some would say that such Draconian cuts to public education (not to mention municipalities which also took big hits) were necessary because the recession created the state deficit. But, in fact, a big driver of the deficit was the sharp reduction in the state income tax - a big windfall for the wealthy - as well as the elimination of the corporate income tax, which were both “reforms” the governor sought. Meanwhile, Ohio’s unemployment rate is higher now than a year ago.
• While the cuts to higher education statewide have been slightly less dramatic, the governor announced a new funding plan early this year for the state’s public colleges and universities. It requires more of the funding to be based on outcomes, that is, course completions and graduations. No one, except the students, has more invested in student success than the faculty.
Unfortunately, this plan gives even more money to colleges and universities already doing well, while cutting funding to institutions with lower admission standards or open admission, who arguably need the most financial assistance.  This may create pressure to simply pass students in order to get the funding.
One of the key problems here is that the faculty – the people actually working with students in classrooms and laboratories - were not consulted in creating this plan. How do you expect something to work if you never talk to the people actually doing the work?
Now that the University of Cincinnati has provided Gov. Kasich with this prestigious award, we hope that the governor will take a new direction in the remainder of his term and begin to recognize the faculty at our colleges and universities as partners in enhancing higher education in Ohio. Ohio’s students, faculty, and institutions of higher education deserve that kind of respect and collaboration.
And to our wonderful graduating students, your faculty are very proud of you. Congratulations on your achievement and “Go Bearcats!”
McNay is in his 13th year at UC Blue Ash, specializing in the History of American Foreign Relations. He is the president of the Ohio Conference, American Association of University Professors, which represents 6,000 faculty members in a dozen chapters in Ohio, including UC’s. The views here are his and not necessarily those of the AAUP.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Unions ask President Ono to intervene

From the President’s Desk
AAUP, AFSCME & SEIU members ask President Oho
to help move negotiations forward

On December 18, 2012, seventy-six letters from members of AAUP, AFSCME and SEIU were delivered to President Santa Ono. The individually composed letters asked President Ono to help move the AFSCME and SEIU negotiations toward a fair and
reasonable conclusion.

"We were hoping for some kind of response,” said Carolyn Schwier, president of the UC local of SEIU. “But we also understand that President Ono may not want to make any kind of public statements while the contract negotiations are still going on."

As we enter into a new round of bargaining between the AAUP and the UC administration, it would be natural to be apprehensive. Contract negotiations for both the SEIU and AFSCME have stalled, with the administration wanting full control over health care and offering sparse wage increases, if any. In any environment, this bodes ill for being able to attract and retain the quality employees who are the foundation of any organization’s success. What this means for AAUP negotiations remains unclear. In addition, the seismic shifts in both the President’s and Provost’s offices in recent months, could give one pause that “beyond here there be dragons.”

There is much, however, that has not changed; and despite recognized challenges, there is basis for cooperation between the UC administration and the AAUP in moving the university forward in achieving the worthy goals of UC2019 and the Academic Master Plan. Both UC2019 and the AAUP recognize that faculty excellence is central to the mission and success of the University of Cincinnati as it moves into its third century. Over the past three bargaining rounds (since 2003), both sides have taken a tough negotiating stance but with an eye toward progress that benefits the University as a whole. Major changes to the faculty compensation structure, a much-improved grievance procedure, and a new expedited review process for off-tenure-track faculty members are only a few of the successes achieved through those negotiations.

As Provost and now as President, Santa Ono has emphasized the importance of academic excellence in both teaching and research as the central mission of the university. All through the necessary attention President Ono has dedicated to UC Athletics, he has repeated that his goal is that Athletics be eventually self-supporting so that more university resources can be dedicated to UC’s core academic mission.

In a recent article in Median Magazine, for example, President Ono has championed the Liberal Arts in opposition to a growing market-demand attitude about college disciplines (“College Cost and the Myth of the Liberal Arts,” October 5, 2012, (available at; functions best using Foxfire or Google Chrome). In that article, Ono laments the short-sightedness of those who claim that the blame for rising college costs be laid at the door of subject areas that can’t bring in enough raw dollars. Against those complaining of faculty salaries contributing to excessive college costs, Ono remarks that “faculty are not better paid on the whole than their counterparts in commerce and industry, relatively few of whom have invested similarly (in time, money and lost wages) in their own educations. Many, especially the part-time, adjunct or lecture-track faculty who now shoulder much of the teaching load, are paid radically less. Cherry-picking one or two highly-paid chaired professors and extrapolating to the professoriate at large is misinformed at best, dishonest at worst.”

President Ono also takes a healthy approach to the university achieving rank-distinction. While still putting forth organizations such as the American Association of Universities as the peer groups against which we will measure ourselves, in his 1-10-13 memo to the university Ono declared that “if our ascent results in AAU membership, we’ll take it. If not, we’ll continue to strive for excellence with purpose and pride. But never will we allow a distinction to become our destination.” 

I share many of President Ono’s convictions, and I know that all UC faculty stand ready to help in any way possible to make these convictions a reality.

While I share these convictions, there are many challenges we face if we are going to attract and retain quality faculty in the future. For example, UC does not compare well to AAU schools in faculty salaries. In a survey of 93 research institutions conducted by AAU member The University of North Carolina, using 2011-2012 AAUP salary data, UC ranked 86th, 84th and 91st in Full, Associate and Assistant Professor salaries, respectively (see for full data). Among the 57 AAU schools in the survey, UC ranked last in Full, second to last in Associate, and second to last in Assistant Professor salaries. These numbers certainly are not good news for our ability to compete for talent with our peer institutions.

My seminary training also compels me to recall, “where your money is, there your heart will be also.”

Contract negotiations begin on March 1. That’s where all of this becomes exceedingly real for all of us. The university has a responsibility to manage its budget well, of course, but must it be at the expense of the academic mission of the university? Is that truly our only option? If so, then the laudable goals of 2019 will in the end be so many words on so much paper. President Ono, heartily supported by the faculty, is leading the University of Cincinnati into its third century of promoting academic excellence in both teaching and research as the key to the university’s continued success.

The AAUP at UC has also championed academic excellence as the key to the faculty’s future; so we have much to agree upon. The question is, can we use the upcoming negotiations to make those goals a reality, in the way that negotiations have been used over the past 10 years to make progress on other fronts?

Academic excellence rests in large part on attracting and retaining quality individuals through competitive compensation and benefits. Contract negotiations provide the crucible in which the university can show that it has the courage of its stated convictions.

                        — Greg Loving, President
                              AAUP-UC Chapter

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in the Desert

Some photos of Christmas in Palm Springs 2011. At top, we have the newest edition to the family, Jayk, yes, "Jake," the 2-year-old daughter of Lisa, Pam's daughter. My sisters, Pam Buralli and Lynn Fontana, look on as Jayk conquers the rock. Yes, that is a leash on her, really needed for her own safety as we walked around the Living Desert, a desert life zoo and botanical garden.

Then we have my sister with AJ, Lisa, and Jayk.

Next, we have me with all of my nieces and nephews. AJ and Lisa, me, Katie and Joe. Lisa's husband, Travis, took this photo.

At bottom, my sister Lynn with the stroller, Jayk, and Pam.


Another good piece from Inside Higher Ed.

Solidarity in Ohio
November 8, 2011 - 10:02pm
Kaustuv Basu

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, had likened the threat to faculty unions in Ohio from Senate Bill 5 to the Sword of Damocles. By late Tuesday night that sword seemed to be back in its sheath, as voters repealed the bill -- with more than 60 percent voting against it.

It was a resounding victory for organized labor, including public college and university faculty unions, whose very existence was threatened by the bill.

Nelson said the impact of a win would be tremendous. “A win in Ohio could carry some weight; it is a message to the right that an anti-union bill is not a slam dunk. They can put a lot of time and energy into this and still lose,” Nelson said.

The battle over SB 5 in Ohio was an unusual one, as faculty found themselves in the trenches with firefighters and policemen, fighting to repeal a bill passed earlier this year that severely restricted collective bargaining by public employees. While most of the public debate about the bill was not about faculty unions, key portions of the legislation were drafted to be sure that academic unions would be largely eliminated from the state's colleges and universities.

Ohio Governor John Kasich described the bill as a cost-cutting move; faculty unions saw it as a call to war. And battle they did, with AAUP Ohio raising nearly $700,000, the most money the organization has ever raised for a cause anywhere in the country.

Nelson said faculty unions everywhere would be buoyed by a victory. “Higher ed has to be independent from political forces,” Nelson said. If SB 5 remained in effect, unions like AAUP Ohio would be in a desperate situation because 10 percent of the organization’s revenues come from the state, Nelson said.

John McNay, the AAUP chapter president at the University of Cincinnati, who was headed to a tavern to celebrate late Tuesday, said the outcome was a victory for the working people of Ohio. “SB 5 was designed to eliminate the AAUP and would have undermined the standards of academic freedom and shared governance that our union has fought for over the decades at more than a dozen Ohio institutions,” McNay said via e-mail. “The result would have been universities with all the academic integrity of a Burger King. Now we’ve shown that we can defend ourselves.”

He said the fight over the bill had created a historic link between faculty members and the “more traditional union movement.”

Many union experts feel that the proposal to limit collective bargaining had the opposite effect: unions in Ohio now feel energized and much stronger. “It was an unprecedented attack and it led to an unprecedented galvanizing and building of a coalition,” said Gary Rhoades, a University of Arizona professor and the former general secretary of the AAUP.

He said some Republicans tend to overestimate the anti-union sentiment in the country and that is what had happened in this case. “It takes a whole lot to repeal a law but when you go against the working class and the middle class, this is what happens,” Rhoades said.

He called on college presidents in Ohio to try and reestablish trust with their employees. “They should come to the table and bargain in good faith,” he said. “University presidents should not be behaving like Wall Street executives.”

But Rhoades, like many others representing unions, said the victory was a temporary reprieve. “It is very likely they will try something else,” he said. “But nothing else has brought us together like this before.”

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

SB 5 in the news

A piece that appeared in Inside Higher Ed, an online newspaper on higher education issues.

Battle for Survival
October 27, 2011 - 3:00am
Kaustuv Basu

When faculty members at Ohio public universities mention their governor’s quest to end their collective bargaining rights, they talk as if they were in a war.

These days, many professors at the state’s public universities find themselves in an unusual spot: in the trenches, with other public employees such as firefighters and police officers, campaigning to repeal a law (Senate Bill 5) that would, if it survives, severely limit their ability to bargain for wages and benefits.

The survival of Senate Bill 5 would diminish faculty unions -- some say it would even put their survival in doubt, by preventing most members from being in a union. The law was adopted earlier this year but is being challenged in a referendum next month.

States vary on their recognition of faculty unions in public higher education, but Ohio has long been among the most solidly union states when it comes to tenure-track faculty members -- and the state is the heart of the union activity of the American Association of University Professors.

Although recent polls have found a majority of the state’s voters favor repeal of the law, both sides are well-financed, making the outcome far from clear.

The Ohio conference of the AAUP has about 4,300 members – about 10 percent of the national membership – and those members now find themselves in the thick of things. "Our members have been phone-banking, knocking on doors, hosting forums, and doing a myriad of other activities to bring awareness to how SB 5 will negatively impact faculty and other public employees,” said Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of AAUP Ohio.

Kilpatrick said it was “safe to assume that all of the public university presidents support SB 5.”

When contacted, the presidents of two Ohio public universities did not openly say which side they were on.

Lloyd A. Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, said he wants an excellent health care system and a reasonable retirement package for his employees, while Mary Ellen Mazey, the president of Bowling Green State University, said she was committed to shared governance. Neither of them commented specifically on the collective bargaining issue at stake in November, but Mazey said the issue was now up to Ohio voters.

Earlier this year, The Toledo Blade reported on how some officials at Bowling Green State University were involved in the drafting of SB 5.

Bruce Johnson, the president of Ohio’s Inter-University Council, which represents presidents from public universities, said the council reached a consensus earlier this year in supporting the bill. “Ultimately, it would improve university efficiency by controlling costs,” Johnson said.

A lobbying group called Building a Better Ohio, backed by a number of trade groups, has also actively campaigned in support of the bill. The group’s spokeswoman, Connie Wehrkamp, said SB 5 would bring runaway costs under control. She said faculty strikes, like the recent one at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, are unfair to students.

“The students are being used as a bargaining chip. The kids who are paying tuition are stuck while public employees go on strike,” Wehrkamp said.

Costs were rising in all levels of government, she said, and at the same time there are government employees who are not paying much for health care or their pensions.

“They are given raises with no regard to how they are performing,” she said. “We owe it to our taxpayers and owe it to our students to give them the best education possible.”

This kind of talk has certainly energized the faculty members, who are now hustling to reach out to voters.

AAUP Ohio has raised more than $650,000 to fight SB 5, more money than it has ever raised in Ohio for any campaign.

“The campaign has really placed the Ohio Conference AAUP on the labor map. Previously, AAUP had not been very involved in the larger labor movement, partially because we are a part-membership organization (we have non-union members.),” Kilpatrick said. "But the AAUP in Ohio really stepped up to combat this bad legislation, and even our non-union members have been active and supportive."

John McNay, professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, called the bill a drastic, extremist act. “It is a new thing to be so politically involved but we have been forced into it,” he said. “Ohioans recognize the great injustice of this law.”

McNay, who is the AAUP chapter president at his university, said he had taken part in phone banking events and walked door-to-door, talking to voters. “People try very hard to be civil but sometimes it has been tense,” he said.

David Jackson, AAUP president at Bowling Green, said he did not anticipate too many people supporting SB5. “The college presidents, they are not saying anything, continuing a trend in backroom-type behavior,” he said.

One unintended consequence of this battle could be that faculty unions could become stronger in Ohio. That’s how Richard Boris, director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, sees it.

“This is driven by the same tsunami that happened in Wisconsin,” Boris said, referring to efforts to curtail collective bargaining in that state.

Mobilizing faculty members can be slow, he said, but the battle in Ohio represents a crucial moment. “Efforts are on to end the autonomy of public universities and tie them to the political process in the state,” Boris said.

And even if the current measure fails, the challenges to collective bargaining will continue, he said.

“Politicians are politicians. What they don’t like is to lose twice,” Boris said. "They might find other mechanisms to do the same thing."

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ohio's Faculty Unions: Front and Center

November 2, 2011
Ohio's Faculty Unions: Front and Center

To the Editor:

"Faculty Unions in Ohio and Wisconsin Hunker Down" claims that the faculty unions in Ohio and in Wisconsin have been marginalized in this political process (The Chronicle, October 9). We can speak only to what has been occurring in Ohio. Contrary to the article's assertions, the American Association of University Professors chapters in Ohio, like the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers chapters, have contributed a great deal to the efforts of We Are Ohio, both in terms of our collective financial contributions and in terms of the contributions made by many individual members—as well as in terms of the number of signatures gathered on referendum petitions, the number of new voters registered, and the linkages made with other unions through our participation in canvassing, phone banks, and fund raisers.

In fact, the AAUP chapters in Ohio have sustained active contributions from the outset of the campaign in the spring 2011 semester right on up to the present time. Faced with the complete elimination of our collective-bargaining rights, we have become a more significant, not a less significant, factor at the state level. Your article ignores that the fact that faculty-union leaders such as Rudy Fichtenbaum, of Wright State University's AAUP chapter, have been front and center in providing Senate and House testimony against Senate Bill 5; that faculty leaders have spoken at many major rallies across the state; and that faculty opinions on this issue have been expressed on the editorial pages of every major—and many local—newspapers in the state.

Ohio's higher-education faculty are not simply guarding their own interests, either. We are proud of the coalition we have developed with every union represented in We Are Ohio, and expect the fruits of our friendships to continue on into the future. At a recent fund raiser, a firefighter—not entirely ironically—thanked Gov. John R. Kasich for provoking such a profound sense of shared purpose. The firefighter was speaking for a great many pro-labor people in the state, including the majority of its university faculty. Ohio is indeed a "swing state." It is not Oklahoma or Utah. Right now a lot of pro-labor people feel very energized, and a lot of the people who have supported the radical effort to gut collective-bargaining rights are feeling much less certain about the ramifications of that effort than they may have felt six months ago.

But since dollars and cents usually speak most loudly to both allies and opponents, it needs to be noted that AAUP's Ohio chapters have contributed close to $750,000 to We Are Ohio, a considerable amount in any statewide political context, but especially given that we have only about 4,500 members statewide

Your article looks only at short-term ramifications of the anti-union legislation in Ohio, between its passage and the referendum on its repeal, and ignores the galvanizing effect that the referendum has had on all unions, both public-employee and private-sector. It does not ask what will happen if Issue 2 / Senate Bill 5 is repealed in November, or how that will change the perception of organized labor's momentum. This article is typical of "mainstream media" in that it responds to what is going on at the moment, ignoring that conditions are very fluid (perhaps volatile) and suggesting that the implications are long-term. Ohio's voters are aware of the political swindle currently under way—the anti-union legislation being only one of many patently one-sided schemes designed to favor the far right's corporate sponsors.

To shift focus somewhat back to the specific interest of our faculty unions, one must ask why an article in The Chronicle passes over, without comment, the fact that Issue 2 / Senate Bill 5 imposes NLRB v. Yeshiva University language on Ohio's public-university faculty when the faculties at nine of the 12 public universities in the state all voted democratically to unionize precisely because of shared-governance issues. We now know that representatives of the Bowling Green administration asked that the language be inserted into the original Senate Bill 5, in response to that faculty's recent election to unionize by that university's faculty.

Even worse, the article relies on and reinforces the well-worn stereotype of all unions as collections of thugs who hold the public over a barrel in order to fill their own pockets (the mixed metaphor is intentional as it reflects the incoherence of the stereotyping). Anticipating the objection that The Chronicle is simply trying to present "all sides" of the issues, we would be very happy to see an in-depth Chronicle exposé on how the expenditures on salaries and benefits at Ohio's public universities have shifted dramatically away from faculty—in particular tenure-line faculty—and toward administrators and administrative support staff. At our universities, the personnel costs have remained flat, at about 80 percent of an institution's expenses, while the percentage allocated to tenure-line faculty has steadily declined, and their salaries and benefits constitute only about 15 percent of the total institutional expenses. Nonetheless, every time there is a budget issue, you'd think that increases in tenure-line faculty compensation were the cause of it, and that reductions in our compensation offered the only solution to it.

We welcome spot-on reporting and are ready to take our share of criticisms. All we ask is that reporters get their facts straight before going to press.

Martin Kich
President, AAUP
Wright State University
Board Member
Ohio Conference of AAUP
Dayton, Ohio

Dave Witt
University of Akron
Past President
Ohio Conference of AAUP
Akron, Ohio

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cincinnati Chamber gets pay off

The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce has chosen to voice strong support for Senate Bill 5, the union-busting legislation passed in the spring with overwhelming Republican support in both the House and the Senate. It will now go to a vote of the people in November.

This comes as no real surprise since the Chamber’s attack on union workers is in sync with Gov. Kasich’s position and a long-term policy of support for lower wages. The Chamber was also on the wrong side of the minimum wage referendum in 2006. But this week we also learned the Cincinnati USA Partnership, an economic development organization directed by the Cincinnati Chamber has been awarded $2 million by Gov. Kasich through his controversial new JobsOhio agency.

This tax giveaway to the Cincinnati chamber does not pass the “smell test” and certainly has the appearance of a political payoff. Finding creative ways of channeling Ohioans hard-earned tax dollars into the pockets of corporate interests is not economic development but seems a primary objective of the Kasich administration. What the Cincinnati region needs is a promise from the chamber that it won’t use this windfall of taxpayer money to campaign for SB 5 or to free up other funds to do so

And to what other purposes might this new-found wealth be directed? The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Cincinnnati group and other metropolitan chambers of commerce, produced in the fall of 2010 a report called, “Redesigning Ohio: Transforming Government into a 21st Century Institution.”

“Redesigning Ohio” is mainly filled with radical proposals that arguably do not serve the middle class and seems to have as its primary purpose to reduce tax contributions for the state’s corporate heavyweights. This is no surprise since nearly all of the substance of the Chamber’s proposal has one source: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s “State Budget Reform Toolkit.”

ALEC is a right-wing organization, founded and funded by wealthy corporations and individuals, most notoriously, the Koch brothers, who have a long history of attacking unions, encouraging voter suppression, and undermining environmental laws. ALEC is primarily a front through which America’s largest corporations can deliver legislation, like SB 5, to sympathetic legislators, like Ohio senators Shannon Jones and Tom Niehaus.

Much of the language and argument contained in both plans are strikingly similar but the most glaring common thread is the work of public policy writer David Osborne of Public Strategies Group. Osborne has been pushing something he calls “Budgeting for Outcomes” or BFO. The argument embracing BFO in both the ALEC report and the Ohio Chamber proposal is surrounded by much verbiage that makes it sound both new and harmless. It is neither.

In reality, BFO suggests to policymakers that they can be justified in slashing government expenditures to some undetermined lower level based on ideologically-driven choices because of the many positive benefits that will ensue. Cutting funding, for example, will make state government services more “creative” and will actually “improve” public services. There is no mention of layoffs, of important work not accomplished, or of the heavy tax burden passed onto local communities. It is all gently covered in a smoke-screen of happy talk about “improvements.”

Not all Ohio chamber members have simply accepted this radical political approach by the state and local chambers of commerce. When the Youngstown Chamber announced its support for Senate Bill 5, Tom Byers, general manager of A.B. Crane & Steel Service Inc., withdrew his membership as did others. “I just wish they would’ve stayed neutral on [SB 5],” Byers told the local newspaper. “I don’t see how it helps to support it so strongly.”

Small business owners who are members of the Cincinnati Chamber should ask themselves this question: There are 360,000 public union members in Ohio. Is it really in your interest to attack the police who protect your streets, the firemen who protect your homes, the teachers who teach your children, and the many ordinary people who are your customers? Is this the kind of community you want? Are these people really your enemies?

If not, then you should demand that the Cincinnati chamber withdraw its support¸ financial and otherwise, for this radical bill and that the organization no longer be led down the destructive road paved by ALEC.