As we begin our journey into another new year, Ohio’s public employees and their unions face some unknowns, not only as we transition into a new state government here in Ohio, but as we contemplate the role of unions across this country, not only in 2019, but for years to come.
Certainly public unions continue to reel from 2018, which was, indeed, a roller coaster year for unions and workers’ rights. But there’s a lot of motivation, too, as we head into this new year and reflect back on the previous year, a pivotal turning point for unionism.
Despite fervent attacks on union rights–from the Supreme Court to local school boards–the union worker’s voice was heard louder than ever in 2018. From teachers rising up for respect on the job in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona to explosions of union victories within journalism, academia and the tech world, the demand for workers’ rights, fair wages and benefits and respect on the job is on the rise. For a supposed "dead movement," the ideal of unionism seems stronger than ever.
Overall support for unions is at a 15-year high and rising, according to a 2018 Gallup Poll. Sixty-two percent of Americans approve of labor unions today. Before 2017, public support for unions hadn't exceeded 60% since 2003 says Gallup.
And here in Ohio, OCSEA felt its own victories in 2018. At a time when Ohio public sector wage increases are averaging 2.3 percent per year, the OCSEA Bargaining Team secured above average increases of 2.75 percent in 2018, 2.75 percent in 2019 and 3 percent in 2020…8.5 increase over the life of the contract. This was the largest public employee increase among surrounding states, excluding West Virginia, whose 5 percent increases came as the result of a nine-day strike and nearly bare-bones salaries to begin with. This came despite national wages barely keeping up with inflation and middle class families still struggling to get ahead.
OCSEA union leaders and activists also helped fend off legislative attempts to make Ohio a Right to Work state; stood up to anti-union campaigns; motivated new and non-members alike to belong to their union; and spread the word about the power of unions and solidarity in workers' rights. OCSEA supported legislation to address dangerous substances in Ohio's prisons; expanded the FREE college program to include nearly 20 degree programs; launched an electronic membership card; expanded online resources for members; and so much more
As a whole, 2018 was a pretty good year, but there's so much more we can do...together. We cannot go into 2019 with trepidation; but rather, we should move forward in unity and eagerness to continue what unionists started in 2018. We look forward to standing by your side through 2019, no matter what comes our way.Will you join us?
Related: Making your union New Year's resolutions.