The Ohio Education Association (OEA) is taking an extra $22 from regular members and an extra $11 from support staff to fund the Voters First Ohio redistricting campaign. As with the $54 fee OEA charged members last year to fund union front We Are Ohio, the temporary dues hike was voted on by a small number of union delegates and will come directly from the paychecks of public school employees statewide.
Voters First is a union-driven push to replace Ohio’s redistricting process with a nominally independent commission. Like the We Are Ohio campaign to block public employee union reform, Voters First represents labor union maneuvering to counter Republican victories in the November 2010 election.
The Voters First amendment — written by two Democrat donors — would exclude many politically active Ohioans from the inherently political redistricting process while allowing union bosses to stack the commission with union supporters.
OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks explained the political fee in a message titled “Bringing democracy back to Ohio” in the June 2012 OEA newsletter:
Referendum campaigns like the one for Senate Bill 5 are expensive, but they can only be avoided if we elect genuine supporters of public education. The Voters First Amendment can prevent some extremist attack legislation. Politicians will have to appeal to all voters in order to compete, rather than simply win partisan primaries, and this could result in more moderate leadership in Ohio and in Washington.
OEA is the state’s largest public employee union, and regularly works with far-left groups demanding higher taxes for increased government spending. In an editorial printed recently in papers across the state, Frost-Brooks called for increased state spending to replace temporary federal funding from President Obama’s “stimulus” bill.
OEA has endorsed President Obama’s reelection, and OEA-endorsed U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was rated “Most Liberal” in the Senate by National Journal in 2009 and 2010. While Frost-Brooks claims to seek “more moderate leadership,” OEA’s goal is to elect politicians who will increase spending and will not challenge the unions.
“Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders need not apply,” Frost-Brooks added. During the 2010 campaign, OEA gave Democrats more than $1.6 million. In 2011 when the General Assembly passed a law limiting union power, OEA spent over $6.5 million to overturn it. Despite several recent PR disasters, OEA’s ability to collect forced dues makes the union a political juggernaut.
Amid a 2010 contract fight with OEA employees, Frost-Brooks — who was paid $148,211 in 2011 – said in an email that “members can not afford higher dues.” Nonetheless, in her June 2012 letter Frost-Brooks wrote, “Recognizing the financial strains on each of you, and the constant need for political action, I will organize a new OEA special task force to explore the formation of a new political action ‘crisis fund’ for ballot issues.”
A ballot issue “crisis fund” would act as a political slush fund above and beyond the millions OEA currently spends on left-wing politicians and policies.
During the 2011-2012 school year, OEA dues were $479 for full-time teachers and $238 for full-time support staff. The Voters First assessment will be taken from educators’ paychecks starting in September 2012.