Erika White: Ready for the Challenge of Governing on the State Level

By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor

Now that the Ohio Republicans in Columbus have made a total mess of the redistricting process, over and over again, both for U.S. House Districts and for state House and Senate districts, the upcoming primary and general election contests are more than a little confusing – particularly for the candidates.

Erika White, president of the Communications Workers of America, Local 4319, made a decision to run for the Ohio House to represent District 46, currently represented by the term limited Mike Sheehy, before the Columbus Republicans sullied the process.

House District 46 included parts of South Toledo, as well as the cities of Oregon, Maumee, the Village of Holland, Jerusalem Township and Springfield Township.

The new redistricting process, however, placed White’s residence in the newly drawn District 40  – Toledo along River Road to the Zoo, along with Springfield, Holland, Maumee, Waterville, Swanton. Monclova, Whitehouse. After she had decided to enter the contest, White realized that now she is in the same district, although not nearly in the same neighborhood, as Toledo City Councilman Nick Komives who had also decided that he wanted to make a run for the General Assembly.

But wait! Even though the two Democratic progressive candidates from two very different neighborhoods – they reside almost 10 miles apart – are on the ballot facing each other, that may change any moment, given the vagaries of this year’s election lineups and the repeated decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court to strike down Republican-drawn district maps.

Whether White ends up in the 40th Ohio District or is shuttled off to another, she will run for a house seat. “Everything can change but as a woman of color this is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” she says. “When the campaign is ready, we have to be ready to go.”

White is definitely ready. The long-time telecommunications specialist in the engineering department of AT&T and union leader – she served 13 years as vice president before she was elected president – also serves on the CWA National Executive Board as the Diversity Board At-Large Member for the Central Region and vice president of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO. She also is vice chair of the Healthy Lucas County Executive Committee, an executive board member and Health Chair of the Toledo Chapter NACP, on the Executive Board for the Toledo Chapter of the Coalition of Trade Unionists (CBTU) and the Community Action and Response Against Toxics (CARAT) chair.

Her background with the union, collaborating with employers and representing workers during contract time, for example, have prepared her for the tasks  required of elected officials in Columbus. “I have the tenacity to work with those in Columbus,” she says. She also has acquired the ability and the knowledge of “how to bring home the resources,” for the benefit of those in the greater Toledo area.

White is running for a state representative post for three primary reasons she says.

First, there is a matter of education, particularly school funding and school safety. Last week marked the 25th anniversary of a landmark Ohio Supreme Court decision, DeRolph v. State of Ohio, which ruled that Ohio’s public school funding formula was “neither thorough nor efficient,” as required by the Ohio Constitution. In those 25 years, notes White, nothing substantial has changed about the way Ohio’s public schools are being funded.

White’s community roots and her ability to get to the heart of the problem about “how teachers view it, hos parents view it, how students view it, will enable her to help make some progress on what appears to be an intractable problem.

Second, there is a matter of safety for the general community but especially for those in public safety positions, such as firemen and policemen.

“How do we protect those who protect us?” she asks. Right now, for example, fire fighters often wear bulletproof vests while on a call and much of the danger would seem to be exasperated by a society that places the places the right to bear arms so far above that of public safety.

“Conceal and carry puts someone’s public safety at risk,” she says. “You go to work and you want to go home. More guns in the community do not make us safer.”

Third on White’s list of immediate concerns is building a stronger economy. “A strong economy built on sustaining wages,” the candidate says. As White explains, a skilled tradesperson should be able “to take care of a family with a job” and good jobs that pay taxes can take care of a community’s needs – the bridges and roads and multiple items that the government is responsible for building and maintaining.

“Employers need to understand the way the economy must grow and why jobs are a part of that economy,” says the candidate.

As president of the Communications Workers of America Local 4319, White represents union workers at the University of Toledo, AT&T, the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Allen County Children Services, Allen County Child Support and Johnson Controls.

She has been honored with the CBTU Trade Unionist of the Year and the CA District 4 Women’s Committee Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award.

“This is me!” she says of the opportunity to serve her community on the state level. “We have a chance to have representation by the voters.”