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Resurgent labor unions in Ohio could tip presidential race

Jeff Tyler Jan 4, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Mitt Romney eked out a victory in the Iowa caucus last night edging out Rick Santorum by just 8 votes. Candidates now move to New Hampshire to duke it out in a primary there. President Obama is off on the campaign trail as well. He’ll be speaking just outside Cleveland today.

Ohio is an important swing state in the election and has also been the site of a major union law battle. Last November, unions scored a big win for collective bargaining rights. Is organized labor an election year issue?

Jeff Tyler has more.

Jeff Tyler: Public sector workers — like firefighters and teachers –  campaigned last November to overturn a new law limiting collective bargaining. And they succeeded. But was this really a sign of greater union influence?

Greg R. Lawson is a policy analyst with the conservative Buckeye Institute. He says the influence of labor is limited to public sector unions.

Greg R. Lawson: There’s not necessarily any evidence that the private sector unions are kind of having this massive renaissance.

Mike Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, disagrees.

Mike Podhorzer: I’ve never seen a time when there’s as much enthusiasm and unity within the labor movement to fight back on these things.

Fighting back requires money for things like advertising. Roger Geiger is with the Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. He says it’s tough for small businesses to raise funds compared to organized labor.

Roger Geiger: The have a huge built-in advantage and that is that they can use union dues for political purposes.

Money from outside Ohio is expected to flow to the state from both sides in this battle. Professor John Russo studies labor at Youngstown State University. He says labor unions don’t have to match their opponents fundraising efforts dollar-for-dollar.

John Russo: I think that the manpower that organized labor has, together with all the community groups, make it very difficult for Republicans to win.

But he says it will be close.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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