What's at Stake? Ohio and the War against Workers

For Immediate Release

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What's at Stake? Ohio and the War against Workers

WASHINGTON - Across the country we are seeing conservative governors and
legislators make it a priority to stamp out workers' rights and
eliminate unions.  These lawmakers are hiding behind the guise of fiscal
austerity and budget cuts in order to move a conservative corporate
agenda that seeks to weaken the power of workers to organize and bargain
collectively for better wages and a better quality of life.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Ohio, where GOP Governor John
Kasich has already stated that collective bargaining rights for low
income, mostly minority women workers are "toast" under his
administration. Meanwhile, in a sign that it's just politics as usual,
Gov. Kasich announced a pay raise for his own senior staff before even
coming into office.

Tonight in Cincinnati, on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, hundreds
of workers will take the conversation back by holding a gathering by
candlelight at City Hall.  They will join community leaders, clergy and
union members to call on Gov. Kasich to honor Dr. King's legacy by
rebuilding the middle class and, rather than stripping them of rights,
protecting child care and home care workers who do some of the hardest
work in our society.

Ohio is a poster child of the problem around the country. 
Joblessness in Ohio is at 9.8 percent and over half a million workers
are struggling to find work.  But instead of focusing on how to put
Ohioans back to work, Gov. Kasich is determined to weaken the voice of
workers and weaken the middle class just to pay back big business
special interests.

Across the country, workers will take up this fight and push back on
politicians who, even at this time of record economic inequality, want
to scapegoat workers for financial conditions that were caused by Wall
Street and corporate greed.

Part of that effort will be to push back on the many myths that have
pervaded the national conversation on public workers – and the efforts
to pit private sector and public sector workers against one another.

The Truth about Public Sector Workers

- Public employees are the hard-working people who provide the vital
services we depend on.  These are our firefighters, nurses, teachers,
and police officers who have committed their lives to public service.

-Republican legislators and corporate special interests are joining
together – not to create jobs, but to launch vicious attacks against
public employees.

-According to the Economy Policy Institute (EPI), after accounting
for factors including level of education, hours worked and non-cash
compensation, on average, full-time state and local employees are
undercompensated compared to "otherwise similar private-sector workers."

              -Private sector workers earned average annual wages of
$55,132 – $6,061 greater than the $49,072 earned by public sector
workers.

            -When looking at total compensation including
employer-provided benefits, the gap narrowed, but the private sector
workers still earned $2,001 more per year than public sector workers
($71,109 in total compensation, versus $69,108).

-Public employees are not to blame for the current budget crises in
the states. Public employees pay a significant portion of the costs of
their pensions. It's the politicians who failed to make the required
contributions and put these pension funds in a hole. Furthermore, these
are modest benefits – of the 7.7 million retired state and local
government workers in 2008, the average retirement benefit was $22,653.

Workers Fighting Back Around the Country

In the coming months, working families will join with community
members in their states to change the conversation by holding events
like the one in Ohio – by writing letters, calling lawmakers, organizing
petitions and educating the public about the effort to scapegoat
workers.  Already in states workers are standing up and calling on
lawmakers to work on fixing our economy:

In Missouri: "Labor union leaders speak out against making Missouri a
Right to Work State, saying it wouldn't create jobs or increase
revenue." [Missouri.net ,1/11/11, http://bit.ly/i39y5a]

"The Missouri AFL-CIO says Missourians are looking for action by the
legislature on one issue — jobs. And the labor organization says it will
work with business groups to get Missourians back to work."
[Missouri.net, 1/11/11, http://bit.ly/fxL6ml]

In Florida: "The AFL-CIO and two outside experts Monday disputed what
they say are "myths" that Florida's public employee retirement plans
are underfunded and provide lavish benefits.[Bloomberg, 1/10/11, http://bit.ly/fNdN7f]

In Indiana: "Opponents of a so-called "right to work" law are keeping
the pressure on at the statehouse. A day after House Democrats invoked a
seldom-used rule to force a vote to try to kill the bill without a
hearing, the Indiana AFL-CIO dispatched 75 grocery and food-processing
workers to the statehouse to lobby against the bill." [WIBC, 1/6/11, http://bit.ly/hfK2mS]

In Ohio: "Incoming state leaders plan to target public employment
laws in 2011, but this past week backers of the collective bargaining
process promised to put up a fight." [Lancaster Eagle Gazette, 1/2/11, http://bit.ly/eNteeN]

"Republicans won't be able to alleviate Ohio's budget crisis by
weakening the power of government-worker unions to bargain collectively
for their members, a liberal policy group said yesterday." [Columbus
Dispatch, 12/31/10, http://bit.ly/eIH214]

In Wisconsin: "You will find that right-to-work legislation has no
bearing on job creation. You will also find in right-to-work states that
the middle-class worker is compensated less, has no say-so about safety
or issues in the workplace and can be fired at will for no reason at
all." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/28/11, http://bit.ly/gAozoj]

IN THE COMING WEEKS AND MONTHS, workers will engage with state and
local lawmakers and with the community on what state legislatures should
really be focused on – creating jobs and bringing balance back to our
economy. In Indiana, workers are unveiling a "workers' bill of rights,"
outlining the priorities of working people to create a middle-class
economy. In Wisconsin, working people are keeping close watch on Gov.
Scott Walker, who pledged to create 250,000 jobs during his campaign,
demanding to know "where are the jobs?" And in Missouri, working people
are holding politicians accountable through a series of events to
highlight their record in the creation of jobs and pointing to their
corporate ties.

And that's just the beginning…

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The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions. The AFL-CIO union movement represents 10.5 million members, including 2 million members in Working America, its new community affiliate. We are teachers and truck drivers, musicians and miners, firefighters and farm workers, bakers and bottlers, engineers and editors, pilots and public employees, doctors and nurses, painters and laborers-and more.

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