Could Ohio Become a Right-to-Work State?

The chart shows that right-to-work states made up nine out of the top twelve performers in economic growth during the past decade, while the four clear laggards, including Michigan and Ohio, whose economies both shrank, were not. 2001-2010 economic growth weighted by average population in all right-to-work states was 21.7%; in the rest of the states and the District of Columbia, it was only 13.6%. During the past thirty years, the tremendous leads in per-capita GDP industrial states like Ohio and Michigan once had over the right-to-work states have mostly and in a few cases entirely evaporated.

Despite the tantalizing prospects for economic improvement inherent in making Ohio a right-to-work state, it's hard to blame Kasich for his caution. On the same day Ohioans passed Issue 3 by a stunning 66%-34% margin, they rejected his Issue 2 by 61%-39%. These somewhat contradictory results would appear to make a right-to-work initiative's prospects -- and its potential impact on the 2012 presidential election -- more than a little murky.

It comes down to two critical questions:

  1. Do Buckeye State voters, as the Ohioans for Workplace Freedom umbrella group strongly believes, care as much about the fundamental freedom of being able to work anywhere they're hired without being forced in some cases to join a union -- or to pay its dues even if they don't join -- as they showed that they cared about being free of ObamaCare's mandates?
  2. Or are they more worried about Ohio's workers losing whatever "protections" supposedly exist (largely illusory, especially in the private sector) in union-controlled workplaces?

While it would be nice to get electoral answers to these questions, yours truly -- and I suspect most Americans who understand how paramount it is to oust President Barack Obama next year -- would prefer to wait until 2013 to find out. The last thing the country needs is to lose Ohio to Team Obama because a hyper-energized, spendthrift, out-of-state labor movement was able to maximize its sympathizers' turnout in this most critical and unpredictable of swing states.

Whether my 2013 ballot appearance preference prevails depends on how quickly proponents can gather the required signatures (about 500,000 to ensure that about 386,000 are accepted after review). The initiative's leaders, demonstrating their uncanny ability to be simultaneously endearing and infuriating, intend to pursue a 2012 ballot appearance if they have enough signatures by next year's relevant deadline, regardless of its effect on the presidential election, but will hold off and finish the job for the 2013 ballot if they don't. Given that they intend to pursue a primarily grassroots, blocking-and-tackling signature-gathering effort similar to the one used during the health care campaign (which was originally targeted for 2010 but was delayed until this year), I'm inclined to believe that we won't see the initiative get on the ballot until the year after we learn whether Barack Obama was reelected.

I hope I'm right.