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At midnight tonight, opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will kick off efforts to recall him from office.

The group United Wisconsin intends to start gathering signatures needed to force a recall election at that time after filing paperwork with the state. A pajama-party rally is planned at the state capitol in Madison. Other groups are planning an anti-Walker rally at his home in Wauwatosa, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Organizers must gather more than 540,000 signatures by Jan. 17 to set a recall in motion. United Wisconsin says it will attempt to gather 600,000 to 700,000 to allow for leeway in case some signatures are not allowed.

To that effect, the state’s Republican Party will be watching. On Monday, GOP leaders announced they’ve started the new Recall Integrity Center, a website devoted to scrutinizing signatures, according to The Capitol Times. Voters are encouraged to submit videos, photos or other reports of signatures or aspects of the signature-gathering process they deem suspect.

Meanwhile, the Journal Sentinel reports Democrats are concerned Republicans will gather recall signatures under false pretenses – and then destroy them.

For what it’s worth, Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the electoral accountability board, notes that “fraudulently defacing or destroying election petitions is a felony.”

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. More complaints about Groupon. Some merchants have already swore off Groupon after they wound up losing money – or in some cases, their businesses – by running promotions with the Chicago-based company. Now comes another gripe. Merchants tell The Wall Street Journal that Groupon collects money immediately while payments to customers linger for more than 60 days, affecting their cash flow. Rivals of the daily deal site are offering faster payments, which puts a  crimp in Groupon’s business model. Meanwhile, our partner station WBEZ reports Google is stepping onto Groupon’s home turf with daily-deal service.

2. Cain campaigns in Michigan. One day after a debate in suburban Detroit, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain made stops across southern Michigan on Thursday. He discussed the state’s 11-percent jobless rate in Calhoun County, a key battleground that has been split in the two most recent presidential elections. “This is one of the greatest tragedies that we face, and that is we have all these people that are unemployed,” Cain told supporters, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer. Michigan voters head to the primary polls on Feb. 28.

3. Could Ohio become right-to-work state? Two days after voters defeated Issue 2 at the polls, a Tea Party group has started a push to turn Ohio into a right-to-work state. Ohioans For Workplace Freedom said Thursday it is seeking 386,000 signatures to put the issue on the Ohio ballot, perhaps as early as next November.  Ohio is one of 28 states that require employees to join unions or pay fair-share dues in places where workers are represented by unions. “A lot of people in the patriot movement feel this was a key component of Senate Bill 5 that never came out,” Tom Zawistowski, president of the Portage County Tea Party, tells the Akron Beacon-Journal.


A state-by-state roundup of key election news from around the Midwest:

Mixed news in Ohio: Union supporters succeeded in striking down a sweeping collective-bargaining state law, rejecting the Issue 2 referendum by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. The result has been considered a rebuke of first-year Republican governor John Kasich and springboard for President Obama’s once-sagging numbers in Ohio.

Democrats should be reluctant to read too much optimism in the numbers, cautions The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. While Issue 2 failed, the lesser-known Issue 3 passed by an even wider margin. Issue 3, which proposed to prohibit the government from forcing participation in a health-care plan, won more than 66 percent of the ballots cast. It’s a sting delivered to Obama’s federal health-care law.

Implications of Michigan recall: State representative Paul Scott became the first Michigan office-holder to be recalled since 1983. He lost Tuesday’s recall election by eight-tenths of one percent, as 12,284 cast ballots for the recall and 12,087 against.

Scott had been targeted by the Michigan Education Association, according to our partner station Michigan Radio, because he supported budget cuts for K-12 schools and tenure-law revisions, and the state’s income tax extension to senior pensions. His recall is viewed as a warning sign to first-year Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Gary, Indiana breaks new ground: Karen Freeman-Wilson has called Gary, Indiana a “blighted steel town on Lake Michigan’s southern shore.” She’s going to get a chance to clean it up. Voters elected Freeman-Wilson as the city’s mayor on Tuesday. In doing so, she becomes the first black female mayor in Indiana state history. She tells the Northwest Indiana Times she’s already working to make Gary a safer, business-friendly city.

Regional outlook: Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard examines the impact of Tuesday’s elections on first-year governors across the Midwest. Will the momentum that swept Republican governors. Rick Snyder, John Kasich and Scott Walker into office now work against them?

She explains that it’s not entirely a partisan issue. But on Tuesday, union supporters that protested collective-bargaining limits won the day. Heading into 2012, they hold the Midwestern momentum.


Fresh off a lopsided defeat on the Issue 2 referendum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich conceded his signature law that limited collective-bargaining rights of public employees might have been “too much, too soon” for voters.

Now, the question is whether he’ll introduce similar legislation in bite-sized parts.

Despite the fact Issue 2 fell in Tuesday’s vote, 61 percent to 39 percent, polls suggest Ohio voters would support portions of the original law, widely known as Senate Bill 5. Republicans still maintain legislative majorities. More importantly: economic woes that led to SB5 still exist, and budget deficits still need to be solved.

“There is no bailout because, frankly, there’s no money,” Kasich said, according to The Columbus Dispatch, perhaps words that set up the legislative agenda to follow in 2012.

In Cleveland, The Plain Dealer compares the financial position of Ohio municipal governments to that of Detroit automakers three years ago: Needing relief from obligations and procedures they can no longer afford. The newspaper calls Tuesday’s vote “an appetizer” for what happens in 2012.

Expect to see parts of the SB5 law introduced piecemeal, including the introduction of merit pay, employee contributions to healthcare premiums, an emphasis of merit versus seniority in the way layoffs are handled.

If Ohio Republicans had stuck to those points in the first place, Tuesday’s repeal may have been avoided.

Once SB5 because, “an all-out assault on the very existence of public employee unions, they alienated thousands of fair-minded Ohioans,” the newspaper editorialized. It was, “a tone-deaf campaign … class warfare, waged by Republicans.”

 


Across Ohio, voters are headed to the polls today to determine the fate of Issue 2, a referendum on a controversial state law that limits the collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

Here’s a roundup of ongoing coverage of the vote on Issue 2 from around the Buckeye State:

From The Columbus Dispatch: Issue 2 is expected to drive voters to the polls at higher numbers than other non-presidential election years. Franklin County, which encompasses the greater Columbus area, reached a record number of absentee-ballot requests this year at more than 88,000. The Dispatch reports voter turnout is expected to be far higher than the 31 percent of registered voters that cast ballots in 2009.

From Ideastream: Our partner station in Cleveland examines the advertising campaigns mounted by pro-and-anti Issue 2 interest groups. Depending on the vantage point, Issue 2 will harm education. Or save it. It will bolster police forces. Or ruin them. Ideastream reporter Ida Lieszkovsky reports that the ads bring a lot of emotion to the issue, but little concrete information. “There’s usually some truth in there that they’re hanging it on, but sometimes there’s also quite a bit of reach to get the spin,” Robert Higgs, editor of PolitiFact Ohio tells Lieszkovsky.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer: The respective campaigns for and against Issue 2 and its legislative predecessor, Senate Bill 5, have taken perhaps an interesting turn in the final hours. Union opponents of the bill boldly spoke of defeating the referendum at a union hall in Hamilton County. “We are going to shove Senate Bill 5 down the throats of John Kasich and his ilk,” said Howard Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters.

In a speech to 300 Tea Party supporters in Eastgate, Gov. Kasich spoke for an hour Monday night. He didn’t mention Issue 2 until the final two minutes of his speech, according to The Enquirer.

From The Plain Dealer: The U.S. Justice Department has sent election observers to Lorain County today to ensure that county officials keep a commitment to provide Spanish-language ballots.  Last month, the county’s Board of Elections agreed to provide the ballots as part of a lawsuit settlement with the DOJ. The Plain Dealer reports bilingual ballots and bilingual poll workers will be provided in targeted precints.

From Politico: Democrats were stung in Ohio in the 2010 elections, losing the governorship and five congressional seats. This year? They’re planning on using traction from the Issue 2 as a springboard into the national 2012 elections.  James Hohmann writes, “Obama is still polling badly in Ohio, but his campaign has capitalized on perceived Republican overreach to bring recalcitrant liberals back into the fold.”


“Shall the law be approved?”

It’s a simple question that voters will see on ballots across Ohio on Tuesday. Their answers will write another chapter around one of the most divisive issues of the 2011 campaign season, a political battle over Issue 2 and the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Here are some of the basics:

The history: Issue 2 is a referendum that provides a bookend to an earlier piece of state legislation, Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on March 31. SB5 limits the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s 360,000 public employees.

Among the mandates of SB5: It says public employees must pay for at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibits union members from negotiating benefits, makes strikes by union members illegal and emphasizes merit versus seniority when mulling promotions.

The buildup: Union organizers gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of SB5 on the November ballot. At the end of August – five months after signing the bill into law — Gov. Kasich sought a compromise on SB5 that would strike down some provisions in exchange for removing the referendum, now known as Issue 2, from the ballot.

Organizers of the anti-SB5 group We Are Ohio told the governor they would not compromise on piecemeal provisions in the law. They wanted it repealed in its entirety before they would negotiate. An August 30 deadline passed. No compromise was reached.

What happens Tuesday: Polling places are open in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET. A “yes” vote on Issue 2 means a voter approves of the SB5 law. A “no” vote means a voter rejects the law.

What comes next: Two weeks ago, a Quinnipiac Poll showed voters could reject the measure by a 25-point margin. If Issue 2 is defeated and SB5 is repealed, that hardly means the debate is finished.

Many Ohio politicians have indicated that the Republican-led legislature would introduce parts of the bill individually – while recent polls have showed weak support for SB5 overall, they have also shown strong support for certain segments of it.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday those provisions could include, “limits on how much local governments would be required to pay toward employees’ health-insurance costs or on picking up portions of employees’ pension contributions.“

Broader implications: Results of the Ohio vote are being closely watched across the Midwest. In Wisconsin,a fight of similarly fierce volume broke out over legislation that limited the collective-bargaining rights of public employees, and many experts will draw parallels between the Ohio results and ongoing efforts in Wisconsin to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

But there are clear distinctions between the states and the way they operate, explains the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen tells the newspaper it’s partly a referendum on the governors.

“I think that if the (Ohio law) really does get rejected by the kind of margins the polls are suggesting, it’s a reflection of the fact that John Kasich is a lot more unpopular than Scott Walker is,” he said.

 


Hours after United Auto Workers members reached an unprecedented split decision on whether to ratify a new contract with Chrysler, UAW president Bob King told PBS NewsHour there was no conflict within his ranks.

Asked about frustration following the split vote, he told host Jeffrey Brown, “You want to make – I’m sorry, but you seem like you want to make a rift where I don’t think there’s a rift.”

Earlier Wednesday, the UAW reported that 54.8 percent of hourly workers had voted in favor of ratifying a new contract with Chrysler, but that 55.6 percent of skilled-trade workers had voted against it, resulting in a split decision for the first time ever.

Nonetheless, UAW leaders met following the final tabulations and declared the contract had been ratified.

If skilled-trade workers had voted against the contract because of changes that specifically affected only their work, the UAW would have tried to renegotiate that portion, King told the Detroit Free Press. But “it was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trade issues,” he said.

That final decision ostensibly concluded perhaps the most bizarre labor negotiations in memory, which started with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly rebuking King in a written letter at the outset of negotiations.

And they included an unusual priority. In the past, the UAW has placed a priority in negotiating for higher pay and better benefits. But this year, the UAW’s priority was gaining jobs. Toward that end, King secured contractual commitments from the Big Three that will add 20,400 jobs by 2015.

“The number one priority in this was to create jobs in America,” King told NewsHour. “So there will be a lot of people in a lot of communities around America that are hired into middle-class jobs because of what we did in this contract.”

 

 

 


Hours after United Auto Workers members reached an unprecedented split decision on whether to ratify a new contract with Chrysler, UAW president Bob King told PBS NewsHour there was no conflict within his ranks.

Asked about frustration following the split vote, he told host Jeffrey Brown, “You want to make – I’m sorry, but you seem like you want to make a rift where I don’t think there’s a rift.”

Earlier Wednesday, the UAW reported that 54.8 percent of hourly workers had voted in favor of ratifying a new contract with Chrysler, but that 55.6 percent of skilled-trade workers had voted against it, resulting in a split decision for the first time ever.

Nonetheless, UAW leaders met following the final tabulations and declared the contract had been ratified.

If skilled-trade workers had voted against the contract because of changes that specifically affected only their work, the UAW would have tried to renegotiate that portion, King told the Detroit Free Press. But “it was overwhelmingly clear that the issues were economic issues and not skilled-trade issues,” he said.

That final decision ostensibly concluded perhaps the most bizarre labor negotiations in memory, which started with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly rebuking King in a written letter at the outset of negotiations.

And they included an unusual priority. In the past, the UAW has placed a priority in negotiating for higher pay and better benefits. But this year, the UAW’s priority was gaining jobs. Toward that end, King secured contractual commitments from the Big Three that will add 20,400 jobs by 2015.

“The number one priority in this was to create jobs in America,” King told NewsHour. “So there will be a lot of people in a lot of communities around America that are hired into middle-class jobs because of what we did in this contract.”

 

 

 


Chrysler workers have reached a split decision.

A majority of United Auto Worker production members have voted to ratify a new contract with the automaker. But UAW skilled trade members rejected the deal on Wednesday afternoon.

UAW leaders discussed the vote on a 1 p.m. conference call and have not yet announced how they intend to proceed, according to the Detroit Free Press, which broke news of the split vote. No precedent exists for resolving a split vote.

“I don’t remember this ever happening,” Art Schwartz, a former GM labor negotiator, tells the newspaper. “It’s never happened in my memory in a national agreement.”

Precise results from the votes have yet to be released. CBS-TV has also reported that the tally is split.

The Soldiers of Solidarity, a splinter group within the UAW that has traditionally opposed concessions, published a laundry list of complaints about the tentative Chrysler contract on its website.

Among their complaints: No reparations are included for past concessions, no cost-of-living allowances, and no parity with the already-ratified Ford and General Motors contracts.

Chrysler’s financial position is more precarious than its fellow automakers. It lost $254 million in the first half of 2011, while GM earned a profit of $5.7 billion and Ford earned $4.9 billion.

What comes next? That’s unknown. Under terms of the federal bailout, Chrysler workers cannot strike, so it seems two options would constitute either a return to the bargaining table or binding arbitration.


While voting will not be complete until the end of the day, it appears members of the United Auto Workers will ratify a new agreement with Chrysler.

Workers at key plants in Sterling Heights, Mich., Dundee, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio have all passed the tentative contract within the last day on percentages that range from 53 to 80 percent. Voting has not yet concluded at Chrysler’s truck plant in Warren, which is considered a bellwether.

Even if Warren workers reject the contract, it may still have enough support elsewhere to pass overall, according to the Detroit News.

Unlike previous negotiations with Ford and General Motors, the UAW has not made the overall voting tallies public during Chrysler voting.

The Chrysler contract has widely expected to be the most difficult to pass of the three, because workers were offered signing bonuses of only $1,750 up front, with another $1,750 due later if the company met certain financial targets.

By comparison, Ford workers received a $6,000 signing bonus and General Motors employees received a $5,000 bonus.

But Chrysler lost $254 million in the first half of 2011, per the Detroit Free Press, while GM earned a profit of $5.7 billion and Ford earned a profit of $4.9 billion.