Ohio Issue 2: Collective Bargaining Supporter Co-Opted By Anti-Union Forces [UPDATE]

WASHINGTON -- An Ohio woman who is such a strong opponent of an upcoming ballot initiative that she is willing to appear in ads opposing the measure has now found herself co-opted by the other side as the unofficial spokesperson for the anti-labor forces.

Next month, Ohio voters will be voting on Issue 2, a ballot referendum on S.B. 5, a measure that restricts collective bargaining rights for state employees, among other provisions. Opposition to the legislation inspired large protests from residents around the state earlier in the year.

The pro-labor group We Are Ohio is urging voters to vote no on Issue 2 and thus reject Republican Gov. John Kasich's controversial legislation.

Its newest ad features Cincinnati resident Marlene Quinn, who almost lost her great-granddaughter Zoey in a fire. "If not for the firefighters, we wouldn't have our Zoey today," stated Quinn in the ad. "That's why it is so important to vote no on Issue 2. Issue 2 makes it illegal to negotiate for enough firefighters to do their job."

Quinn is not an actor. She is genuinely opposed to Issue 2.

But a new ad by the pro-Issue 2 group Building A Better Ohio uses the same footage of Quinn in its own new ad -- making her a de facto spokesperson for an issue she opposes.

In the Building A Better Ohio ad, Quinn also appears onscreen and states, "If not for the firefighters, we wouldn't have our Zoey today." A narrator then jumps in and adds, "She's right. By voting no on Issue 2, our safety will be threatened."


"I think it's dishonest and downright deceitful that they would use footage of me to try to play tricks and fool voters," Quinn said in a statement.

"It's insulting to the brave firefighters that saved the lives of my grandson and my great-granddaughter Zoey. I'm outraged. They did not ask my permission. I feel violated. I want to stop Senate Bill 5. Everyone should vote No on Issue 2."

Building A Better Ohio did not return requests for comment.

According to Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, more than 10,000 people volunteered to collect signatures to qualify Issue 2 for the November ballot. They were required to obtain 231,149 signatures, with a certain percentage from at least 44 counties in the state. Their campaign wound up with more than 915,000 signatures certified in total from all 88 of Ohio's counties.

UPDATE: 3:30 p.m. -- The New Media Firm, which produced the original ad for We Are Ohio, noted on Twitter that it has heard from two TV stations that have decided to pull the Building A Better Ohio ad featuring the footage of Quinn: "Breaking: WSAZ in Charleston and WTAP in Parkersburg have pulled the misleading Issue Two Yes ad. #weareohio."

We Are Ohio confirmed the news to The Huffington Post. Neither WSAZ nor WTAP returned a request for further comment.

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m. -- Statement from Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building A Better Ohio:

Opponents of Issue 2 chose to use a personal story to make a political argument, but the same story makes an even more powerful case for supporting the reasonable reforms we're asking of our government employees. Without Issue 2, our communities will continue to lay off police officers and firefighters because they can't afford to pay them. By asking our government employees to pay their fair share of benefits and earn their paychecks based in part on performance, we can generate millions of dollars in savings that will keep safety forces on the job protecting the public.

The reality is opponents of Issue 2 have been caught by Ohio's largest newspapers lying in their television ads, and they've proven they'll say anything to distort the facts. They don't like our efforts to set straight their multi-million dollar campaign of dishonesty and emotional scare tactics, but we'll continue to educate Ohioans about why a yes vote is critical not only to public safety but also to the economic vitality of our state.

UPDATE: 5:48 p.m. -- A press release sent out by We Are Ohio said at least eight TV stations pulled the Building A Better Ohio ad. None of the stations returned a request for comment, nor did Building A Better Ohio.

Paul Weber, one of the Cincinnati firefighters who responded to the call saving Zoey Quinn, sharply criticized Building A Better Ohio on Tuesday.

"I applaud the decision by the stations to pull down this deeply offensive and misleading ad,” said Weber. "Marlene Quinn is deeply hurt by the deceptive use of her words. My fellow firefighters and I are outraged that anti-worker politicians have taken advantage of a senior citizen for speaking out in support of her great-granddaughter. As the incident commander and the first firefighter on the scene, I can tell you that it took a team of over 40 firefighters working together to rescue Zoey and her grandfather. Without collective bargaining, we might not have had enough firefighters on hand to save their lives. Senate Bill 5 and Issue 2 are unsafe for our community. I call on all media outlets to respect the wishes of Marlene Quinn and stop airing this deeply offensive and misleading ad."

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