COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Labor and the huge We Are Ohio coalition have been holding a series of mass meetings across the state, organizing against introduction of three right to work (for less) bills by right-wing GOP Ohio legislators this session. Last week at the Carpenters Union Hall in Columbus, the 14th such gathering was an overflow crowd to mobilize against the bills that would strip unions of negotiating power.
"The threat is real," stated AFL-CIO rep Joan Fluharty opening the meeting. "For years we've told people that there is a threat that corporate politicians would try to jam right to-work (for less) legislation thru the legislature here. Well, it's no longer a threat! They've introduced the bills. It's up to us to get organized and fight. If we don't they'll take everything we have!"
Meanwhile, the crowd was still piling in, with people having to park in nearby lots, streets and the alley near the hall.
"We had to get here, this is our fight," said Bob Gossman, president of the United Auto Workers Retiree Council. "We've seen what they did right next door in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those are all strong union states. The right-wingers are out to destroy unions because we are the only line of defense workers have. Without unions, nobody is there to stop the corporate power-grab!"
Gossman was leading a large delegation of UAW workers and retirees into the meeting.
"They've all been like this, the halls just won't hold them," said Matt Smith, political director for the Ohio AFL-CIO. "The Republicans are really waking up our sleeping giant. Every meeting just keeps getting bigger and more enthusiastic."
"This is a fight they clearly don't want to have right now," said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, "with the operative term being 'right now.' Last year they tried the same thing, attacking unions and the middle class with Senate Bill 5, and then were given a solid whipping by Ohio voters. They're still smarting from that, but we need to get ready, mobilized. They will try to bring them back, just like Republican Governors did in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.
"They all said they were against right-to-work, but jammed them thru anyway. They're waiting on the lame-duck session next year and we have no intention of just sitting and waiting. With all our allies, we're getting organized, educated and mobilized and united, we'll win again!"
Republican Governor Kasich and GOP House Speaker Batchelder, after the big mobilization by unions and allies, with hundreds of workers lobbying reps at the statehouse and two large union-led rallies, have sidelined the bills.
"We're stronger together," shouted Mike Weiman, Political Affairs Director of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), addressing the overflow crowd. "They tried to divide us, one against another, last year and we told them---no way! We're union and we are sticking with organized labor and the middle class."
Discussing immediate action plans, all present signed pledge cards, and groups were set up to begin visiting Ohio House reps, with the goal of forcing all to take a position of RTW. Others worked on letters to editors and outreach. Phone banks are now up and running. Nobody left empty-handed or looking for things to do.
"It never stops," said Don Coulter, president of the Columbus chapter of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees. "They just keep trying to take every gain workers fought for and won. But if they want the fight, there are more of us than them. We'll whip them worst this time!"