Last weekend, members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, local clergy and labor leaders were joined by Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor to protest attacks on workers’ rights in Ohio similar to those that have sprung up in numerous states this year. The town-hall style gathering in Cleveland focused on the recent passage of Senate Bill 5, which stripped collective bargaining rights for public sector employees in Ohio. Speaking to the breadth of attacks on workers’ across the country, Taylor told those in attendance, “This is not a Wisconsin fight. This is not an Ohio fight. This is a fight for everybody.”
Public education and child advocates in Texas have found an uncommon ally in this year’s budget debates: the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the largest business advocate in the state. A budget bill passed by the Texas House of Representatives on April 4 included dramatic cuts to education, providing $8 billion less funding than state law requires. Among the most austere provisions is the complete elimination of state funding for pre-kindergarten programs. TAB published a report making the case that quality public education is vital for the state’s economy, and that pre-kindergarten programs in particular actually help contain education costs in the short term. Association president Bill Hammond said, "If we don't have an educated workforce, the jobs will leave. We are not meeting the needs of the future."
Corporate-backed legislators and governors are sacrificing their future political prospects as they ram through increasingly unpopular bills attacking the middle class and economic security. While the greatest attention has focused on the dramatic story that is still unfolding in Wisconsin, equally important fights are going on across the country. In case after case, polls show public approval ratings plummeting for elected officials pushing legislation that scapegoats public sector workers and collective bargaining rights for their states’ fiscal problems. While some of these officials are moving to moderate their course to save themselves, others are pressing forward with a zeal that is likely to cost them politically.