Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald will be in Toledo today to collect the endorsement of the head of the United Auto Workers in Ohio and to emphasize his labor support in this year’s gubernatorial election, after the perceived defection by a statewide construction trades umbrella group.
Mr. FitzGerald will share a stage at 2 p.m. at the UAW’s Maumee headquarters with Ken Lortz, director of Region 2B of the UAW, which includes the states of Ohio and Indiana. Mr. FitzGerald is the endorsed Democratic candidate to take on Republican Gov. John Kasich in November.
Mr. FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, said in a statement he feels “honored to have the support of the UAW and hardworking union members across the state.”
“Their activism during [the Senate Bill 5 campaign of 2011] prevented Governor Kasich from stripping hardworking Ohioans of stable, living wage jobs. I look forward to working with them to ensure Ohio has a strong, diverse economy and a thriving work force,” Mr. FitzGerald said.
Mr. Lortz said he plans four meetings in Ohio to talk about the elections with UAW members.
“I think auto was extremely important in the 2012 election cycle, and I think it’ll be important in this cycle,” he said.
Mr. Kasich campaigned for public support of Senate Bill 5, which would have weakened the collective bargaining rights of state public employee unions, under the rationale that state and local governments needed flexibility to cut costs. The law was struck down by voters in 2011 after Democrats and unions teamed up in opposition.
A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party said Mr. FitzGerald is “confused.”
“Most Ohioans remember that it was the Democrats who oversaw the loss of 400,000 jobs while John Kasich’s laser-focus on fixing the economy and creating more opportunities for Ohioans has led to 170,000 new private-sector jobs and wages growing at nearly twice the national average,” said spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
The FitzGerald campaign was rocked two weeks ago by the revelation that a newly formed construction union lobbying organization had contributed the maximum legal donation, $12,156, to Mr. Kasich's re-election campaign.
The organization, Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio, is a subsidiary of the Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council. Both ACT Ohio and the state construction trades council are headed by current or former Lucas County residents: Matt Szollosi, formerly of Oregon and now of Columbus as executive director of ACT Ohio and Dennis Duffey of Monclova Township as secretary-treasurer of the state construction trades council.
FitzGerald press secretary Lauren Hitt said the show of solidarity with the UAW is not a reaction to the construction trades’ outreach to Mr. Kasich.
“The overwhelming number of unions have put their full support behind Ed. If there are select few who have chosen to continue to pad the governor’s campaign that’s their business,” Ms. Hitt said.
Mr. Szollosi said that the governor has invested in capital-works projects and that Mr. Kasich has shown a willingness to understand the trade unions’ “business model with respect to labor-management cooperation and certainly our focus on apprenticeship training and building careers.”
He said he doesn’t buy Mr. Kasich’s show of indifference to possible right-to-work legislation in Ohio.
Mr. Lortz said he was surprised by the ACT Ohio’s contribution to the Republican candidate, and noted they had not endorsed Mr. Kasich. And he “says it’s not on his agenda but that’s what [Gov.] Rick Snyder said in Michigan and what [former Gov.] Mitch Daniels said in Indiana and look what happened there.”
Both states enacted right-to-work laws in 2012.