Dick Cheney was once a union man—after flunking out of Yale, the future vice president worked as an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers lineman in Wyoming—but now his daughter is leading the fight to destroy unions in America.
The essential battle for organized labor in America this fall is in the state of Ohio, where voters will go to the polls in just three weeks to decide whether to overturn anti-labor legislation that Governor John Kasich and a Republican-controlled legislature forced on the state last spring.
If the anti-labor law is upheld, Kasich will be thanking Liz Cheney. The daughter of the former vice president has—along with former White House political czar Karl Rove—taken a leading role among the out-of-state groups that are raising money and implementing media campaigns to support the law.
Heavy spending by a group Cheney heads, in combination with spending by other corporate-allied national groups, offers Kasich the only hope he’s got for winning a fight that is turning uglier by the day. And don’t doubt for a moment that Dick Cheney’s a part of this push; Liz Cheney has throughout her adult life worked closely with her father (she helped him prepare and promote his autobiography) and Liz’s sister, Mary Cheney, says: “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any daylight at all between Liz’s and my father’s views. It’s not because she’s been indoctrinated. It’s because he’s right.”
Reasonable people might debate whether “he’s right.” But there’s no doubt that the Cheneys are playing hardball in Ohio.
In so doing, they are positioning Liz Cheney as a major mover on the political right—since the state-based fights in Wisconsin and Ohio are major concerns of the corporations that fund conservative causes.
After the anti-labor law was enacted earlier this year, Ohioans reacted with passionate opposition to the gutting of collective bargaining rights for public employees. They were frightened by the threat the law posed to the ability of unions to advocate for firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees in the workplace, and to the prospect that weakened unions would be unable to counter corporate spin at election time. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions to put a veto referendum on the ballot. And polls from last summer indicated that likely voters were overwhelming opposed to Kasich’s law.
Now, however, the fight over Issue 2, the referendum on whether to keep the anti-labor legislation on the books, is getting closer. Polls still show that most voters intend to cast “No on 2” ballots, indicating their rejection of the law and their desire that Ohio again respect collective bargaining rights. But the margin has narrowed in recent weeks, thanks to the millions of dollars being spent by corporate interests to try to save the law and, in so doing, to shore up Kasich’s diminished political fortunes.
Acknowledged spending in Ohio by groups on both sides of the issue has already topped $3 million and, with three weeks to go before November 8, the big-money moment is yet to come. “We are spending a significant amount of money on the airwaves,” Melissa Fazekas, the spokeswoman for the labor-backed We Are Ohio campaign said last week. “But we do think we’ll be outspent at the end of the day.”