Ohio's Issue 2 hurts African-Americans most

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Lee A. Saunders is the highest ranking African-American and Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO

Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich and his allies have resorted to using deceptive tactics and they’re working overtime to muddy the waters on Issue 2, a ballot measure that will disproportionately hurt African-Americans.

We’ll vote “No on Issue 2” tomorrow because we know Issue 2 is the right wing’s attack on public sector workers and public services. It is an attempt to rob the working middle class of their right to negotiate on crucial issues such as health care, outsourcing, and staffing levels on nursing shifts, firefighting crews and in squad cars. We know Issue 2 hurts people who work in public transportation, like my dad did for many years as a bus driver in Cleveland.

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Ours was one of the many African-American families that benefited from government employment. Did you know in Ohio and around the country, one-fifth of all public-sector employees are African-American? That makes the public-sector the largest employer of African-American workers in this nation. Considering the fact that U.S. state and local governments have cut 429,000 workers since the beginning of 2009, it’s no wonder we’ve been hit hard during this Great Recession.

To further hurt public servants and drum up support for their divisive position, radical conservatives are using blatantly deceptive ads. It is downright deceitful and slimy to claim that a “yes” vote is pro-jobs, helps the middle class and supports the very public employees that would be crippled by Issue 2. Even the wording on the ballot was crafted to confuse voters.

We’ve also seen the ads tying Issue 2 to Issue 3, an anti-Affordable Healthcare Act referendum. By calling it a vote against “Obamacare,” the opposition is courting the GOP voters who are staunchly against the president’s health care plan, but may be on the fence about Issue 2.

If that’s not bad enough, they outright cheated. The conservatives twisted the words of a great-grandmother who urged everyone to vote “No on Issue 2” and support the firefighters who rescued her great-granddaughter.

Instead, the right wing, radical opposition distorted her message and used pieces of her ad to make it look as if she supported their side. They might have gotten away with it had she not spoken out.
We must speak out now and neutralize the steady stream of dirty tricks from the other side the best way we know how: by casting our ballots. We must remind our fellow voters that Issue 2 threatens to further cripple and bankrupt working, middle class families. Although the polls say most people will vote “No on Issue 2” and we’ll win by a large margin, by turning out their hard-core, partisan voters and using shameful tactics, the opposition could prove the polls wrong. That is why your “No” vote is so very important next Tuesday.

Working “a city job” or putting in your time for the county or the state has long been considered a good job, a stable career for African-Americans. A study this year by the University of California, Berkeley found that African-American workers in the public sector face less inequality in terms of wages and earn more money than those in other sectors. Taking away our right to weigh in on our own working conditions will set us back years, if not decades.

We must send a message that political cronyism and more giveaways to millionaires and billionaires are not welcome. It is time for Main Street to rise up and beat down this effort to crush the American Dream. Hard working, middle-class families will no longer be the scapegoat for the nation’s economic woes. People who work in sanitation or in Ohio’s community colleges — as my mother did — didn’t tank the economy. Therefore they shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame, while the richest 1 percent of Americans continues to rake in a quarter of the country’s income and control 40 percent of the wealth.

Governor Kasich’s supporters are flooding Ohio with millions of dollars from Dick Cheney’s daughter and the billionaire, Tea Party supporters, the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers made tons of money on everyday products including Dixie cups and Brawny paper towels—but they’re fighting everyday people who only want a voice in their workplace.

In Wisconsin, voters made history this past summer when they recalled two state senators who voted to take away public service workers’ bargaining rights. We can make history in Ohio, too. Vote “No on Issue 2” and tell a friend.