Ohio AFL-CIO Launches 2006 "Who’s on Our Side” Campaign to Hold  Lawmakers Accountable to Working Families; Releases Poll Showing Voters Say Nation on Wrong Track

COLUMBUS--With Congress wrapping up the first half of its work in Washington, Ohio AFL-CIO Legislative Director Tim Burga today released mid-term “report cards” grading votes in 2005 by the Ohio Congressional delegation and announced the launch of a new campaign, dubbed “Who’s on Our Side?”, to persuade lawmakers to improve their record on issues vital to Ohio working families in 2006.  Burga was joined by Tom Mooney, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Dave Caldwell, President of the Central Ohio Labor Council and Legislative Coordinator for the United Steelworkers statewide District 1.

Citing a national poll showing voter dissatisfaction with Congress’ performance in 2005, Burga said too many Ohio Members of Congress earned poor marks overall and that those failing to make the grade should “study up” over the mid-term break to get in line with issues most important to Ohioans.

“The Ohio AFL-CIO fights not for the powerful and well-connected, but for regular Ohioans, regular families, regular wage-earners who believe ‘work for pay’ is more honorable than ‘pay to play’,” said Burga. “These mid-term report cards show that too many times on too many issues Ohio Members of Congress voted for Washington special interests over Ohio working families--on health care, retirement security, fair taxes, jobs, and education.”

Burga said the report cards were merely the first step in a 2006 campaign to hold Ohio lawmakers accountable.  The report cards tracked votes on trade, minimum wage, community wage standards, child labor standards, wage and  pension protections, Medicaid, health care, tax cuts for the wealthy, and student financial aid. 

“The message to Ohio Members of Congress: we’re watching your votes, and some of you are failing miserably,” said Caldwell.  “Throughout 2006, we will work energetically for issues vital to Ohio working families, and lawmakers with failing report cards will be given an opportunity to raise their grade.”

15th District Rep. Deborah Pryce was singled out as having a notably bad record, earning an “F” grade for voting wrong on 12 out of 13 key votes.  Sen. Mike DeWine’s 2005 voting performance, although better than Pryce’s, earned him a “barely passing” grade and put him on “probation.”  DeWine voted wrong on eight out of 14 issues.  Both supported a trade agreement (CAFTA) that will send jobs overseas and opposed ensuring health care for children while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

“Rep. Pryce’s cuts to education in exchange for tax breaks to the super-wealthy clearly demonstrates she’s not on the side of working families,” said Mooney.  “Pryce is voting against her own constituents and siding with Washington special interests, and DeWine needs to improve greatly.”

After the press conference, a delegation delivered a copy of Pryce’s report card to her Columbus office. 

The Ohio AFL-CIO also released a national poll which concluded that the vast majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country and the leadership provided by elected officials on health care, retirement security, jobs, and education.  The poll, conducted December 1 to 4,  reviewed Americans’ assessment of the state of the nation, satisfaction with the priorities set by Congress and President Bush, and reactions to key legislative decisions made in the first half of the 109th Congress.  The nationwide survey was conducted among a representative sample of 801 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent.

By a two-to-one margin, voters say the nation is on the wrong track today.  Just 29 percent say America is headed in the right direction, while 56 percent say it is “off on the wrong track.”  Concern about the nation’s direction rises to 58 percent among employed adults, 64 percent among working women and 63 percent in families with incomes under $40,000.  Nearly six in ten voters in the Northeast (59 percent), Midwest (60 percent), and West (58 percent) say the country is on the “wrong track”, while southern voters are somewhat less negative (48 percent, with 35 percent saying the country is headed in the right direction).

The survey documents that Americans are deeply dismayed about domestic trends.   It asked voters to apply the right direction/wrong track standard to five key domestic issues, and the proportion saying the country is on the wrong track exceeded those saying we’re heading in the right direction for every issue, usually by a large margin.  About two-thirds feel we are on the wrong track when it comes to the critically important areas of health care (69 percent) and retirement security (65 percent).