Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ohio Is Losing Its Marbles--Part II: Issue 2 & the Economy

NOTE: This entry has been posted one week early, because I will be unable to make a post on October 9th.

In Ohio...
As I pointed out in Part I, except for the occasional experimental runs of the now mostly closed JABO, Inc. in Reno, Ohio, Marble King (West Virginia, not too far from Reno, Ohio) is the only fully operational toy marble company left in the United States.  A year ago, Marble King President Beri Fox told Steven Colbert that she wants the government to level the playing field.  Colbert asked the "Marble Queen of Marble King," the following question: "If you could wave a magic wand and tell the government to do something for small business, what would it be?  Extend the tax cut to the richest 2% of Americans?"

Her answer was, "Absolutely not."  Instead, she wants the Federal Government to level the playing field (no pun intended, I suspect), to endorse small businesses to export (such as how China subsidizes its toy marble factories).  To this, Colbert replied, "Madam if I can use a metaphor from the world of marbles, it sounds like our government is not playing for keeps." They're talking about tarriffs. According to Marbles Galore:
When American inventor Martin F. Christensen created the world's first glass sphere-making machine in the early 1900s, he faced stiff competition from overseas. Germany had long dominated the world's toy marble market with their handmade glass, crockery and agate marbles.

Martin's toughest challenge was not found in making a better product. American children adored the new fantastically round and smooth "glassies" he had so ingeniously created. Rather, like so many American manufacturers before and after him, his challenge was labor cost.
The economic woes of the nation have often been mirrored in Ohio.  For example, Goodyear (of Akron, Ohio) will be marking its 25th Anniversary of a win against a hostile corporate take-over by British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith.  This fight went national, all the way to Washington, D.C. and a congressional subcommittee hearing.  According to Jim Mackinnon:
Goldsmith got an earful from the congressional committee, too.
U.S. Rep. John Seiberling of Akron, grandson of a Goodyear co-founder, noted that Goldsmith in preceding weeks at one point said he didn’t know anything about the tire business, but subsequently said he knew more about tires than the people running Goodyear.
“My question is: Who the hell are you?” Seiberling said. The room exploded with applause, including Goldsmith.  (, 10/2/2011)
 This is a fine example of workers and their employers in unity, fighting together to survive.  Such unity rarely exists any more in either the private sector or the public sphere.  Unions, for better or for worse, are a symptom of the discord between employee and employer.  More recently, however, organization has begun to spring up (not among the exploited employed, but) among the increasing and increasingly angry unemployeed--both in Ohio and across the nation.

In the Nation...
Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge: 700 Arrested
Meanwhile, we watch  as filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon lend media attention to the protesters in New York, and (according to Reuters' Ray Sanchez), "similar protests [were] sprouting in other cities, including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco."  It has been an angry few years, as it has become more than obvious that Wall Street is significantly more important than Main Street--but not in the way that Sara Palin bullshits, full of illogical thinking, as illustrated by the below South Park clip.

South Park: "They took our jobs!"
What is frightening, to me, is the way that freedom of speech is being controlled.  the aggressive behavior of law enforcement officials is disturbing.  For example, in the past two weeks, an organization known as Occupy Wall Street, has been camping out as close to Wall Street as possible (at Liberty Park).  People from all over the nation have come to participate, but it is yet little more than 1000 folks in total.  On Friday (9/30/2011), they attempted clarity of their complaints (something members of the Tea Party have yet to achieve) in their Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.

According to Ed Pilkington of  The Guardian, "Activists, as well as commentators following the protest against inequality and corporate excess, claim the response of the city's police force to the peaceful event was vastly out of proportion."   However, as Mark Engler writes, "OccupyWallStreet has accomplished a great deal in the past week and a half, with virtually no resources" ("Five Ways Occupy Wall Street Has Succeeded").

Still, it is worth taking into consideration, too, the fact that  JPMorgan Chase & Co. have practically bought the NYPD.  Do you think Gov. Kasich wishes a bank would buy some of Ohio's public workers?

Back to Ohio...
I wonder--given the national attention this tiny protest in Manhattan is receiving, and you know that the protests against union busting in Wisconsin made national news--why is is that so few people are aware that the "We Are Ohio Campaign"  had a rally on the Ohio Statehouse Lawn back in April (4/9/2011)? Over 10,000 people attended.  The good people of Ohio are getting ready to vote over Issue 2, a veto referendum that was supported by thousands of petition signature (915,456 verified Ohio citizen signatures) against Ohio Senate Bill 5.  The ballot will read as follows:
Issue 2

A majority yes vote is necessary for Amended Substitute Senate Bill No. 5 to be approved.
Amended Substitute Senate Bill No. 5 is a new law relative to government union contracts and other government employment contracts and policies.
A “YES” vote means you approve the law.
A “NO” vote means you reject the law.
Shall the law be approved?
___Yes (To approve the law)
___No (To reject the law)

 Essentially, according to Ballotpedia, the provisions of OH SB-5 are as follows:
  • Bargaining: Expands the topics that management can refuse to negotiate with public employees. Those topics include: employee qualifications, word assignments and staffing levels. According to reports, public employees can still bargain for wages and hours.
  • Strikes: Strikes would be banned, along with a deduction of "an amount equal to twice the employee's daily rate of pay" for each day an employee is considered to be on strike.
  • Performance pay and sick/vacation leave: Currently, the minimum amount for a teacher to be paid is $17,300. This would be undone by the law, replacing this by implementing a pay by performance provision. Sick leave would be reduced from three weeks a year to two. Vacation leave would be capped to five weeks a year.
  • Union fees: Public employees would not have to pay union fees if they do not want to be become a union member. This was a condition of employment before Senate Bill 5.
  • Governing bodies and contract disputes: The governing body of a city, school, or township would have the final say on any contract disputes that initially become unresolved.
  • Charter schools: Employees of charter schools would not be allowed to collectively bargain. The only exception, according to reports, would be conversion charter schools.  

The organization, Building a Better Ohio, wants Ohioans to vote "YES" on Issue 2.  The argument is
"When budgets get tight, struggling schools shouldn't have to lay off great teachers simply because they haven't served long enough. Voting YES on Issue 2 will fix that by putting job performance, not just seniority, first."  This is not a logical argument; it is INSANE!  The threat is that great teachers will be laid off, our children will suffer, if we do not keep SB-5 enacted.

The organization, We Are Ohio, has been arguing that the inability to negotiate will cause lower quality education, nursing, firefighting, and police protection.  This is a difficult argument to make because it is complex, and it is difficult to convey clearly because its complexity is rooted in well conceived logic. The only way that I can think of to make the argument simple to understand is with a question: What quality _____ (teacher, nurse, firefighter, police person, other public worker) will stay at a low-paying job that is filled with the stresses of being over-worked because of under-staffing?

A Sign Passing around on Facbook

Ohio government is trying to play for keeps 
with corporations at the exploitation of its public employees and the rest of its citizens.

Anyone see any marbles rolling around?

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