John Kasich was elected governor in Ohio in 2010 as a strong Tea Party advocate. One of his first legislative campaigns in 2011 (Senate Bill 5) was to restrict collective bargaining for public employees: police, firefighters, and teachers. After it passed the hue and cry was huge: before the year was out a referendum put its repeal on the ballot, where it was soundly rejected – and since then Kasich has been a more moderate governor.
From 2002 to 2012 I spent a lot of time in Columbus, Ohio, and played handball at an athletic club there, with mostly Republican members. One of the regulars there was a retired state policeman who was on Kasich’s security detail. I remember him saying to us, “We told him, don’t go after the police and fire, just the teachers,” because he assumed that it would be an easy win to focus on a mostly female profession.
This is no longer the case. The strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, coupled with the Parkland students’ activism, make me think about how social media has changed the way people organize – and that unions may be strengthened (or even superseded) by social networking, Facebook, and tweets. When a union calls a strike, it’s often a top-down decision. True, the leadership polls its membership to make that decision, but then it issues a proclamation. With social media involved in strikes it’s based on networking, which to my mind is a much more powerful way to rally support.
An additional note: it seems to be going worldwide. Today’s NY Times has articles about the Dalit (formerly “untouchables”) in India and physicians in Togo using social media to push for change. While we may deplore its use by Cambridge Analytica to promote lies and influence elections, it can also be used to foster positive change.