This is a guest post by John McNay, a contributor to the May–June issue of Academe. McNay is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati–Blue Ash. A specialist on the Cold War, he has published books and articles on that period, but his most recent book is Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class. McNay is the recipient of the 2015 Al Sumberg Award, which is given to an AAUP member for enhancing lobbying for higher education on the state level.
One of my frustrations since we won the battle over union-busting Senate Bill 5 back in 2011 has been that when the recent history of unionism comes up in the national media all they ever talk about is RTW in Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.
But what happened in Ohio in 2011 was a big victory for the labor movement. Make no mistake. Ordinary Ohioans, when they had a chance to vote, stood up against right-wing extremism and defended the public unions and the middle class. It is something we should remember. The victory comes in the midst of what has been since 1980 the imposition of supply-side economics that has causes an enormous redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the upper class. What we did in Ohio in 2011 was to show that it is possible to turn the tide, even if just a little.
Toward the end of my book, Collective Bargaining and the Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class, I quote, political commentator and historian Kevin Phillips: “The imbalance of wealth and democracy in the United States is unsustainable. Market theology and unelected leadership have been displacing politics and election. Either democracy must be renewed, with politics brought back to life, or wealth is likely to cement a new and less democratic regime – plutocracy by some other name.”
Note: A fuller discussion of this topic may be found in the May–June issue of Academe in “The Ohio AAUP and the Repeal of Senate Bill 5”, an essay by John McNay.