Why Elections Matter
Because elected officials have a direct effect on your job, your rights, and your family’s and community’s well-being, it is critical that you get involved in the 2012 elections. Next year, you will vote to elect the president of the United States. As we look at what is happening now across the country, that election takes on even greater significance. Every day, in state after state, public employees and the services our communities depend upon are under assault. And while we continue each day to push back against those assaults, ultimately, the surest recourse is the ballot box. As these examples demonstrate, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Stand up against anti-worker politicians who put irresponsible tax cuts ahead of public services.
Elected in 2010, Ohio Gov. John Kasich immediately began his assault on public schools by proposing devastating funding cuts to public education and community services. He also pursued a union-busting agenda—attacking public employees, employee rights and collective bargaining. This assault includes:
- $2 billion in cuts from the public school budget while simultaneously expanding the state’s voucher program from 14,000 to 60,000 students;
- Ending Ohio's commitment to universal all-day kindergarten; and
- Eliminating collective bargaining for state employees, home childcare workers, charter school teachers and some employees of higher education institutions, and significantly undermining collective bargaining for K-12 employees.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker began his assault on public employees and workers’ rights immediately upon taking office. He has also cut funding for key public services. He has proven to be one of the most anti-union, anti-working family crusaders holding elected office anywhere in the nation. Under Walker, Wisconsin residents and union members have faced:
- A draconian budget that includes $200 million in tax cuts—largely capital gains and tax breaks, which help the wealthy more than working families—while cutting school funding by $1.7 billion;
- Collective bargaining rights that have been stripped from public sector higher education, home childcare and home healthcare workers;
- Dues payroll deductions that have been stripped, and additional onerous requirements that severely restrict the voice of workers;
- Major cost shifts for pension and healthcare benefits to employees—amounting to a 16 percent pay cut for many workers; and
- Legislation to increase the state’s private school voucher program.
Elected in 2010, Florida Gov. Rick Scott pursued an agenda to gut public education—cutting education funding by $500 per pupil—and to silence the union voice of educators and working people. Scott and the Legislature have:
- Supported a budget that cuts education funding by more than $500 per pupil. The Florida Legislature has placed an initiative on the ballot that would cap future spending increases, essentially locking these cuts into the state constitution.
- Passed voter suppression laws making it harder to vote, compelled photo ID, shortened the early voting period and made it difficult to run voter registration drives;
- Limited the power of unions to represent their members; and
- Tried to decertify unions, essentially denying workers their right to have a voice in the workplace.
Elected in 2010, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pushed an agenda to attack unions that included:
- Pushing a package of union-busting bills, including legislation that allows dismissal of probationary teachers at any time, amends teacher tenure law to take away due process and allow teachers to be fired for almost any reason, and limits the time a suspended teacher’s salary would be continued after charges are filed under tenure law;
- Establishing appointed positions called emergency financial managers (EFM) who are given the power to unilaterally void negotiated contracts with unions, take over local school districts and take away the power of duly elected officials; and
- Supporting budget actions to cut corporate taxes by 86 percent ($1.6 billion) while cutting school funding by more than $400 per pupil and increasing college tuition.
Immediately upon his inauguration in January 2011, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett demonstrated that his top priorities were to promote private school vouchers, break the unions and make drastic cuts to education. He also stated that he would sign a “right-to-work” bill as soon as it came to his desk. Corbett has:
- Said his top priority was to bust the unions;
- Pushed a “right-to-work” bill, designed to rob workers of their voice;
- Proposed cutting funding for higher education by 50 percent;
- Proposed cutting funding for education overall by nearly $1 billion while pushing for $400 million in tax breaks for business; and
- Introduced legislation to greatly expand private school vouchers and strip seniority for teachers.
In 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), passed legislation that would end traditional Medicare.
- The House Republican budget bill (whose principle author was Paul Ryan), which was passed in April, would end traditional Medicare for anyone turning 65 in 2022 and later. Instead, in the future, seniors would receive subsidies to buy private insurance. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most seniors would pay more for healthcare under Ryan’s plan.
Stand up with leaders who fight for working families.
Newly elected Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stood up to the anti-public education, anti-public sector state Legislature and has vetoed six amendments to the budget that would have gutted public education, weakened due process rights and jeopardized quality public education for the children of Minnesota. The amendments Dayton vetoed would have:
- Diverted public dollars to private school vouchers;
- Cut special education funding;
- Evaluated teachers largely on student test scores;
- Allowed districts to form charter-like schools exempt from state laws and rules, including collective bargaining; and
- Required all teachers to serve three consecutive years with at least 120 service days for continuing contract/tenure status, and required all teachers who change districts to serve an additional three years' probation, with the same service time requirement.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch fought efforts of the Republican-controlled Legislature to weaken workers’ rights and shift pension costs. Gov. Lynch:
- Vetoed a union-busting “right-to-work” bill; and
- Vetoed a pension bill that would have shifted pension costs to employees and increased the retirement age.
- Under Democratic leadership, Congress passed the federal stimulus package that gave vital aid to children, students and workers, and created jobs to jump-start the economy. The stimulus included:
- Direct, targeted aid to school districts and colleges that helped save 400,000 jobs;
- Investments in school construction bonds totaling $25 billion;
- Funding of more than $15 billion in Pell Grants to help families and students pay for higher education; and
- Funding for higher education infrastructure needs and critical early childhood programs.
Working together, we affect the issues and make a difference.
Although assaults on public education and workers’ rights continue in state after state, members have come together to fight these attacks, and have had some success in staving off egregious legislation:
- Citizens in Ohio have gathered nearly 1.3 million signatures—almost six times the number needed—to put on the ballot a repeal of Gov. John Kasich’s bill that eliminates collective bargaining.
- In Wisconsin, we have gathered enough signatures in six senate districts to recall state senators who are decimating the rights of workers.
- In Pennsylvania, members have visited dozens of senate offices; made thousands of phone calls; and sent tens of thousands of letters, postcards, e-mails and petitions to legislators urging them to stop costly, irresponsible voucher legislation.