Ohio Gov. John Kasich is breaking unions, pledges, hearts: Connie Schultz

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Published: Sunday, April 03, 2011, 5:40 AM

Last month, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he wouldn't make a show of signing the law that would decimate the collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

He was going to look out for people's feelings, he said.

"The day we sign it, it's not going to be some, you know -- I don't anticipate some big deal, because this is hard for people," he told reporters. "And anything that's hard, I want to be respectful of other people's feelings, their thoughts and their emotions."

Wow. Stopped me in my tracks with that one. Got me to thinking: Well, OK. He wants to gut workers' rights, but in a touchy-feeling kind of way.

But last Thursday, Kasich did what he said he wouldn't do and made a public ceremony of signing the bill commonly known as SB 5.

Now, Kasich might argue that it wasn't reeeeally public because the public wasn't invited, but he did invite the media, and we represent -- ta-dah! -- the public. He also invited those legislators who think it's a neato idea to alienate all kinds of people who work for a living.

And Kasich was photographed. A lot. You can watch the whole thing on, which is a public television station. For now, anyway. There's an effort to gut that, too, but at least that batch of Republicans is in Washington, not Ohio.

Back to Kasich's public signing: He had me believing he was going to sign SB 5 into law in the quiet of his own office.
Let me just say it: I feel so used.

Worse, as Plain Dealer reporter Mark Naymik pointed out, just hours before the signing, Kasich's gubernatorial campaign sent out a fundraising email that included this salvo:

"There is a reason that the union bosses opposed these changes; because it strips power from the union leaders and returns it to the taxpayers and workers. The nation is watching us in Ohio and we will provide the leadership necessary to become a job-creating state and serve as a model for the rest of America."

I dunno. I'm not feeling the respect for all those feelings, thoughts and emotions he talked about last month. Maybe I'm just being too sensitive. Sensitive like the governor, I mean.

As Naymik reported, Kasich didn't seem too keen on being asked about that email.

"Do you have any idea the politics that have been used to club me over the head and Republicans over the head?" Kasich said. "I think there's nothing inappropriate to the fact of letting people know what we've done, and if people want to help us, that's great. Period, exclamation point."

OK, first of all, the governor needs to pick one: Period or exclamation point? He may temporarily have gotten away with plowing over the rights of Ohio's teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees, but I will fight him to the last ellipsis if he thinks he's going to change the laws of grammar, too.

Secondly, Gov. Kasich is the highest-ranking state official in Ohio, so I'd appreciate it if he'd act like it. You don't make a spectacle of doing exactly what you said you wouldn't do just because some people called you names. This is politics, not preschool.

I do want to thank Ohio's governor and all of those Republicans in the Statehouse for at least coming clean and making their agenda obvious. And so soon after the election, too.

It must be such a relief to finally stop talking about all those jobs they never meant to create. All that pretending has got to be stressful. In just a few short weeks, they've made it clear it's payback time. The top priority is to go after hardworking Americans who dared to belong to a union, and bump women of reproductive age back to chattel status along the way.

Finally, transparency in government.

Opponents of SB 5 -- and they are loud and increasingly large in number -- have made a public vow of their own: They're going to take this new law to the voters on a referendum. They have 90 days to gather 231,147 valid voter signatures, and when they do this, the law will be put on hold until the November election. Both sides have vowed to raise, and spend, millions of dollars in the weeks leading up to Election Day. It's likely that anti-union groups will have more money because they always do.

The question looms: Is justice up for auction?

My guess: Not here. Not in The Heartland.

I will give the governor this: He's right to say the nation's eyes are on Ohio.

And we're about to give our fellow Americans quite a lesson in democracy.

Editor's note: Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz is married to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

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