I received the following press release from the Ohio Republican Party. I don't know about you, but I've not heard any groundswell of support for 'compromise' on labor issues in Ohio. In fact, all I've heard from unions is that Senate Bill 5 needs to be repealed and business owners and conservatives saying it needs to stand.
While I can understand an interest in coming to agreement on reforms to the public union issues and the unsustainable obligations their contracts have, I can only wonder who is calling for 'compromise.' That's what we got with the debt ceiling and all that did was push the can down the road.
Perhaps the Republicans fear taking the issue to the ballot with the amount of money unions have to fight for a repeal? Perhaps Republicans fear that Ohioans will be swayed by fear tactics of the unions saying all our houses will burn down and there will be lawlessness because of no police or fire if SB 5 stands. Perhaps, the Republicans are acting too much like they have in the past, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I don't know... I just hope that this offer to talk isn't a capitulation before the fight has even begun.
Finding Common Ground In Order to Move Ohio Forward
Ohio Labor Leaders Should Accept the Invitation of Governor Kasich & State Legislative Leaders
Columbus - Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine released the following statement in response to this afternoon's press conference, where Governor John Kasich, House Speaker Bill Batchelder, and Senate President Tom Niehaus invited labor leaders to engage in discussion and compromise on reform legislation for Ohio:
"Our path forward as a state struggling under the weight of a sluggish economy begins with offering proposals to find common ground on reforms which place jobs and economic recovery before political point scoring," said Chairman DeWine.
"While the Ohio Republican Party stands solidly behind the reasonable reforms of Senate Bill 5, we urge Ohio labor leaders to join Governor John Kasich and our legislative leadership in heeding the public's calls for setting aside political differences in our shared desire to guide our state toward prosperity."
State Democratic officials and union leaders should listen to Ohioans' desire for compromise. That begins by offering concrete policy proposals for bipartisan consideration.
Senate Democratic leader Capri Cafaro of Hubbard said in a statement: "The time to negotiate was during the legislative process, not 197 days after Senate Bill 5 was first introduced in the Ohio Senate." (Julie Carr Smyth, "Ohio Gov Seeks to Stop Union Law Repeal Effort," AP, 8/17/11)
It's difficult to find common ground and negotiate when one side fails to offer any alternatives. Democrats failed to offer a single amendment, and one union leader said at a We Are Ohio news conference last week that they intentionally refused to do so for inherently "political" reasons:
"The Democrats were supportive of our position in its entirety," said Steve Loomis, president of the police patrolmen's union in Cleveland, during today's press conference. "The fact that they didn't offer any amendments is political in nature and they had their reasons for doing that," Loomis said. (Courtesy: Ohio Capital Blog, We Are Ohio Press Conference, 8/12/11)
I received a copy of the actual letter sent to Ohio's unions requesting them to sit down and see if there can't be some agreement on reforms to Ohio's collective bargaining laws.
The letter is from Gov. Kasich, Senate President Thomas Niehaus and Speaker of the House William Batchelder. It says:
"In a matter of days Ohioans will be thrust into a costly political battle that will likely result in lasting scars and bitter divisions at one of the most fragile moments in our state's history. Outside observers, including Ohio's two largest newspapers, have rightly asked whether that recourse is our only option. It is not. They have called on us to "look for common ground, not battlegrounds" and to make a "serious effort to determine if compromise is possible."
While we passionately believe in the reforms of Senate Bill 5 and stand ready to vigorously - and successfully - defend them, we ask you to consider this option and join us in working with determination toward a compromise for the benefit of the taxpayers we all serve.
So it appears that this is not a case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as I feared above, but an appeal directly to the public sector unions only to work with the Republican leadership to see where they might be able to find common ground on reforming Ohio's collective bargaining laws. The Democrats weren't invited.
It will be interesting to see where this goes - and whether or not any common ground might be discovered. The unions fall back plan would be to just let the voters decide.
Here is the actual letter: