YOUNGSTOWN - A few hundred union members and community residents gathered at Youngstown State University's Kilcawley Center on Monday, in a kickoff rally to gather support in the last weeks of the statewide campaign to defeat Issue Number 2 on the Ohio ballot.
The rally was called by the We are Ohio coalition.
Senate Bill 5 which strips unions of collective bargaining rights, will appear on Ohio's ballot in November as Issue 2.
Representative Bob Hagan and Sen. Joe Schiavoni, along with several trade union leaders, addressed the spirited event.
Schiavoni dealt with the dishonest tactics the Ohio GOP used when the legislation was first introduced. "They didn't give us adequate time to do anything," he said. "They'd give us a 1,000-page bill, then ask us if we had any questions before we had time to review it."
Rep. Hagan said, "No one on Main Street did anything as bad as Wall Street." Hagan went on to point out that the only person to face prosecution for Wall Street excesses was Bernie Madoff who went to prison "because he screwed rich people."
The state representative said, "I'm not mad at the tea party for being so loud; I'm mad at everyone for being so quiet."
He called on the audience to "fight to the very last breath." He continued, "We're here to rally the troops because there's a movement to take away our rights." Hagan joked, "They can kiss our working class."
Other speakers included JoAnn Johntony, state president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Jim Graham, president of UAW Local 112, and Sgt. T.J. Assion from the Mahoning County Sheriffs department.
Shannson Sampson, a teacher in a nearby rural community whose father was a steel worker said, "When did we become the enemy? I have 4 kids - we are living at poverty level." In the long term she said this struggle is "about the public good."
Jim Graham of the UAW said, "Kasich said he's at war. He's a war with nurses and teachers and police officers and fireman." Referring to Kasich's threat to run over his opposition he said, "They better have a big bus." Graham continued, " Just because we haven't fought in years - that doesn't mean we have forgot how to do it."
Tracey Wright, a Youngstown fire fighter, said the GOP bill was a threat to public safety.
Participants were urged to go door to door to bring out the vote on Election Day. Early voting in Ohio begins on Tuesday, October 4.
A rally protesting the attack on working-class families was also held in nearby Mercer Pennsylvania on Saturday.
The We are One coalition recently opened a local Girard office in Trumbell County. Phone banking is being done from the office.
Youngstown State University students are planning a campus rally on Thursday to protest a freeze on financial aid and in support of faculty who are threatening to strike on Friday.