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Thousands gather at Statehouse in Columbus to defend public sector unions

By Kati Ketz |
February 22, 2011
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Protest to defend public sector unions at Ohio statehouse
Protest to defend public sector unions at Ohio statehouse (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Protest to defend public sector unions at Ohio statehouse
Protest to defend public sector unions at Ohio statehouse

Columbus, OH - Thousands gathered here at the Statehouse on Feb. 22 to demand that lawmakers vote no on State Bill 5, a bill that would eliminate the right for public sector unions to collectively bargain. Firefighters, teachers, laborers and students gathered both inside and outside the Statehouse as state senators held another hearing on the bill. Protesters chanted “kill the bill!” and “give merit pay to senators,” while speeches were given on the steps by workers whose lives have improved thanks to the efforts of their unions.

One speaker on the steps of the Statehouse said he was there because he is currently in school for education. “I am a student and I want to be a teacher. I have to work a minimum wage job and take out student loans to get through five years of school. I can’t afford to get out of school and continue to make minimum wage while teaching students in Ohio. If we want to keep jobs in Ohio, we have to kill this bill and keep our unions strong!” Other students were also there, supporting union workers and protesting proposed tuition increases to state universities.

SB 5 in Ohio is very similar to the bill currently being fought against in Wisconsin. The proposed bill would eliminate the right for public workers to collectively bargain, effectively taking away all power of public sector unions. In addition, the Ohio bill is an attack on LGBTQ people, prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages that happened in other states and prohibits laws being passed that would grant benefits to same-sex couples. Unlike the situation in Wisconsin, where Democrats can leave the state to prevent a quorum for a vote, Democrats in Ohio are now in the minority to where Republicans have quorum with or without their presence.

SB5 is part of a larger, coordinated campaign by right-wing forces in Ohio and elsewhere to attack public sector workers while giving tax breaks and other huge benefits to the rich. Governor John Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers executive, has done little more than degrade and insult public employees at every possible opportunity. Kasich has portrayed firefighters, laborers and teachers as lazy, overpaid, and incompetent.

In Ohio, public sector unions have already given the state more than $220 million in concessions. There are 5000 fewer state workers in Ohio than there were in 2006 - the year before the previous governor took power. These attacks and insults come from the same man, Gov. Kasich, who once famously called Dick Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, a “great leader.” Lehman Brothers is one of the main companies whose collapse foretold the financial crisis. Workers here are showing this incompetent lackey of the rich that they will fight back.

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