Ohio Workers Fight Back

Mar 10, 2011

[Update - In Wisconsin, on March 9, using a loophole in the rules of order, the Senate voted to eliminate collective bargaining rights by public workers, despite a Democratic boycott that had prevented earlier action. For more coverage as events unfold, watch this space.]

Thousands of public/state workers, many unions, and supporters like veterans and environmentalists have been peacefully and noisily fighting back in many Ohio cities against Ohio Governor Kasich’s support of Bill SB5. The bill passed the Ohio Senate. If passed by the Ohio House this coming week, it will all but eliminate collective bargaining by state workers over wages, pensions, healthcare, working conditions, and the right to strike. “Kill the Bill” is as popular a call by working people demonstrating in Columbus, Ohio as in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Rights for workers in Ohio’s townships, cities, counties, school districts and publicly funded universities will also be seriously hurt by the proposed budget cuts. It looks as though Bill SB5 might go before a statewide referendum in November if passed by the Ohio House, as it likely will be. Workers need mass actions in the streets against the bill and the budget cuts, by building support in workplaces, community organizations, gyms, churches, clubs, among veterans, among small farmers and with unemployed workers along with homeless groups, gay and lesbian groups, women’s and African American groups and immigrant groups.

Who Are Public Workers?

Who are public workers? There are 350,000 public workers in Ohio whose jobs are on the line. Public workers include but are not limited to teachers, first responders like firefighters and cops, corrections workers as well as janitors, bus drivers, health care and social services workers; office workers, administrative workers, service workers, construction workers, maintenance workers, repair workers, transportation workers, production workers, doctors and lawyers and other professionals. Public workers are the majority of workers in unions per the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public workers tend to be more educated than workers in private businesses. Because of this, Big Business’ interests are to bust the unions and drive all US workers' wages down to the levels seen in 3rd world and developing countries. These interests are caused mainly by imperialism; its governments, its armies and its financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF-International Monetary Fund as well as by corrupt rulers and corrupt governments. Big Business wants to silence working people and poor people’s just struggles and a desire for a better life. Big Business wants to break the backs of working, middle-class and poor people.

Why are the firefighters and cops in particular supporting working people who are demonstrating against Bill 5? It’s not because cops are friends to working and poor people but because the firefighters and the cops are in unions and will lose their right to collective bargaining and their right to strike. The cops’ interest now is to support the workers’ struggles because their jobs and their welfare are on the line, too.  

"A National Attack on Working People"

Trillions have already been stolen from taxpayers by the federal government and given to Wall Street, banks, and the auto giant, GM. Big Business and local and state governments are ramming their greedy needs for more money down workers’ throats. This is going on all across the United States from Maine to Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. A representative of one group of workers said this is “part of a national attack on working people.” 

What else does Big Business and their Republican partners in government have in store for working people? Big Business and their politicians, their newspapers, and their television networks lie in order to destroy workers’ ability to organize for our rights. Big Business is stealing away more and more, the broad gains that workers have won over the past 70+ years. It’s dirty, low down. They need to compete in the global economy against countries where workers’ rights are illegal and suppressed like in Egypt where workers make $150-$450 a month. That’s why Big Business is making US working, middle class and poor people pay.

Is the Tea Party on the side of working and middle class and poor people? No. The Tea Party supports Bill SB5 and a small group of them demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio, just like in Madison, Wisconsin. In Columbus, the demonstrating workers and their supporters surrounded the Tea Party demonstrators just like in Madison, Wisconsin.  Mike Wilson, 34, technology consultant, who founded the Cincinnati Tea Party, said pubic workers are overpaid.  Protesting workers drowned out Ted Lyons, an electronics executive, and a local tea party leader from Troy, Ohio. The Tea Party works for multi-billionaires.

Workers' Rights Are Human Rights

Workers' rights are human rights. Public workers, all workers, have a right to organize and be in unions. The United Nations says the right to have unions is a human right.  In the 22 right-to-work states, overall wages are lower than in union states. There are fewer unionized workers in right-to-work states. It has also been shown that right-to-work states don’t overall have a better economy than union states’ economies.  

Even the Ohio Catholic Bishops are calling for negotiations without ending collective bargaining and say people have a right "to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, and to join unions…, to have collective bargaining.” Holy smoke Batman and Batgirl!

It’s been shown that public workers make 4% - 11% in wages less than workers in privately owned businesses. It’s a lie when Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels says public workers are “a new privileged class in America.” Public workers have been giving concessions to their governments. Working people are sharing the burden of debt – the equality of sacrifice –of debt that cities and states and the federal government have run up partly because of the unjust wars that the US is waging - against Mideast workers and peoples. Tax breaks for the rich are also causing some of the big deficits in city after city and state after state. Ohio public workers gave $250 million in concessions in 2009 to help balance the Ohio budget. What is Ohio Republican Governor Kasich, what is Ohio Senate Republican leader Niehaus going to give to balance the budget? Ohioians are some of the millions out of work here in the US. Working people, middle class people and poor people need decent jobs for all and universal heath care. 

The Problems We Face

There are other big problems facing us. Quality of life issues like sustainable farming, global warming which is threatening human, animal and plant life, clean air, clean water, decent education for all, decent housing, world-wide hunger, a massive aids epidemic around the world, world peace. Well, the list goes on and on. The system we live under, capitalism, is unable to provide for the needs of the majority of human beings because it is a system that depends on profit not need. Hence, Big Business and governments’ corrupt and greedy drives to make all working people pay for their financial crisis. Hell no! Working people did NOT cause the financial crisis that is bearing heavily down on us. Need does not equal greed. Enough is enough!




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