COLUMBUS, Ohio - The situation is very fluid, shifting daily, but Ohio House Republicans have the votes to pass the vicious anti-worker Senate Bill 5, which was approved earlier by the state Senate. They are expected to pass the bill this week, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich likely to sign it next week.
Organized labor, meanwhile, has built a massive coalition of community, religious, academic, retiree and allied groups to oppose the legislation and has already announced its intention to immediately mount a campaign to put the bill on the November ballot as a referendum.
While we won't really know the total damage that SB 5 will do until we can see the entire bill, with amendments, we do know that it is a massive corporate attack on the right of public workers to bargain collectively. Among other things, SB 5 would:
- End the right of public workers to bargain collectively over most issues, including health care, safety and pensions.
- Outlaw strikes by public workers.
- Impose "merit pay" on public workers, meaning bosses can pay those they choose more, while paying others who don't "suck up" less!
- Set up a "right to work" (for less) situation for public workers in Ohio, ending closed shops, and thus, the power of workers to bargain effectively.
- Set up procedure to end union representation, by 30 percent of a shop petitioning to decertify a union.
Gov. Kasich and his fellow Ohio Republicans sold this outrageous attack on community standards and union representation by stating that it was needed to "balance the budget." However, just prior to putting SB 5 forward they had OK'd a huge set of tax cuts for corporations. Questions on why they've continued giving away public funds when there is such a crisis, requiring the elimination of basic human rights to solve, have gone unanswered by GOP spokesmen.
Fight for justice
All Ohio unions, and a massive coalition of community, faith and pro-justice groups have united in a push to immediately mount a huge campaign to put SB 5 on the November ballot. To do so will require a huge, united campaign.
Putting SB 5 repeal on the fall ballot requires a petition with 231,000 valid signatures, including 3 percent of those who voted for governor in 44 of the state's 88 counties. There will be approximately 90 days to accomplish this, and it will be necessary to get twice the required number of signatures to be sure there are enough.
"We need all the help we can get," said Jeanette Mauk, Ohio AFL-CIO field director. "To get this on the ballot, then win this battle for justice, will require a huge effort. Anyone wanting to help can find work in this fight!"
All this week rallies are being organized at the Statehouse. Ohioans are urged to join the rallies and support workers fighting for justice.
Mauk is heading up a drive to create "labor action teams" that will help spearhead the fight against SB 5. To join a LABOR ACTION TEAM, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org , contact Mauk at 614-224-8271 (ext. 7144), or just pop into to the Ohio AFL-CIO office at 395 E. Broad St., Columbus.
Phone banks are now set up and running Monday-Saturday (9 a.m.-7 p.m.) at the Ohio AFL-CIO offices, 395 E Broad St. People who can volunteer for an hour, or longer, are asked to call Scott at 614-259-8146, or just come down to the office and help out. The call responses are running overwhelmingly against SB 5, in support of workers, families and communities.
To receive text messages from the Ohio AFL-CIO on the fight against SB 5, folks can text "ohaflcio" to 313131
On Thursday, March 31, an extremely important town hall meeting in Columbus has been organized by Democratic legislators opposed to SB 5. Those initially sponsoring the event are State Reps. Michael Stinziano, Ted Celeste, Nancy Garland and Tracy Maxwell Heard.
Union members and supporters are urged to turn out en masse for this significant, first of its kind, event. "Show up, have your say," labor activists urge. A big turnout, they say, will show that these legislators have strong support for voting for workers, for our communities, and against SB 5!
Thursday's town hall meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the IBEW union hall, 23 W. 2nd Ave., Columbus
A related action will take place here on Monday, April 4. Forty-three years ago on April 4, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., while leading a fight to support striking Memphis sanitation workers. Those workers were fighting, using their right to bargain collectively, and to strike if they were treated unfairly - both rights now being taking away from Ohio public workers by Republican legislators. Dr. King gave his life for the rights of all working folks.
An April 4 program will take place at the King Arts Complex, 867 Mt. Vernon Ave., Columbus, with speakers, music and faith leaders.
Image: A sea of union members and allies protest anti-working people laws. Photo by Debbie Kline