CLEVELAND - Vice President Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis came to a firehouse in suburban Euclid Nov. 15 to thank and congratulate Ohio voters for the repeal of Senate Bill 5, the Republican-backed union-busting measure that was defeated by a landslide in the Nov. 8 election. The event, drawing a cheering crowd of 500, was also seen as a kick-off for the 2012 presidential election in Ohio.
"You put out a different kind of fire," Solis said, referring to the key role firefighters played in the SB 5 campaign. "You threw water on a different threat to public safety and you sent a clear message heard around the nation that labor unions did not cause the problems of the economy and should not pay to solve them."
She blasted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for endorsing SB5, "the most anti-worker bill to ban the right of collective bargaining" and the Republicans in Congress who have blocked passage of President Obama's American Jobs Act.
Biden called the defeat of SB 5 "very, very, very impressive" and said that, although "labor was attacked as never before," the 2.1 million votes for repeal were "a lot bigger than organized labor." The turnout in an off-year election was extraordinary, he said.
"You tapped into the frustration and anger" of broad sections of the people, Democrats, Republicans and independents, who see that "the deck is stacked against them."
Biden charged that the "basic bargain" that hard work brings security to "middle class" families, had been broken. That bargain "lasted for decades, since the 1940's," but now faces a "full throated attack" by right wing extremism.
The attack continues, he said, in Wisconsin, Florida, New Jersey and other states and in Washington takes the form of efforts to destroy labor and environmental protection as well as throwing up "one roadblock after another" against bills to create jobs.
"They won't allow us to vote on the American Jobs Act," he said. "Not a single Republican voted to save the jobs of 400,000 public employees. They voted against a $1500 cut in payroll taxes for workers. They voted against a bill to refinance mortgages and against modernizing 35,000 school buildings."
The funds for these badly needed programs are readily available if the extremely rich pay only a little more in taxes -- $500 for someone making $1.1 million.
"They won't ask millionaires to chip in but ask everyone else to pay," he said.
"Folks," he said, "you fired the first shot." Now, he added, "it's about whether middle-class people are going to be put back in the saddle again - because you are the people who make this country move."
Photo: Rick Nagin/PW