06/29/2011

More than 1 Million Signatures Filed for Ohio Referendum

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press conference

We Are Ohio spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas addresses marchers.

The We Are Ohio coalition and its supporters sent a clear message to the governor and other state lawmakers when thousands of people marched through downtown Columbus to deliver petitions with nearly 1.3 million signatures to the office of the Ohio secretary of state. The signatures (more than three times the number required) were gathered in support of a ballot referendum that would give Ohioans an opportunity to repeal the state's new anti-worker collective bargaining law, Senate Bill 5, when they vote on Nov. 8.

The "million signature march" included a band, a fire truck and a semi-truck loaded with more than 1,500 boxes of petitions. "This is the people's parade. You are truly one in a million," We Are Ohio spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas told the parade of marchers, which included hundreds of educators represented by the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

ohio parade

S.B. 5 was passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Kasich in March. The legislation eliminates employee rights and restricts the voices of teachers, firefighters and other public employees. The broad-based We Are Ohio coalition mounted the intensive and well-organized petition drive that resulted in a record number of signatures collected for a statewide petition effort.

Michael Coleman, the mayor of Columbus, joined the parade as it wound its way up Broad Street. "This is about more than just an overreach by our state government," he said. "This is an attempt to bust organized labor after generations of developing rights."

A poll conducted in May by Quinnipiac University showed that 54 percent of Ohio voters supported a repeal of S.B. 5.

Meanwhile, the OFT has lashed out against a vote by a Ohio Legislature conference committee that includes education elements of S.B. 5 in the state budget, including teacher evaluation, compensation and layoffs. "The state budget is for allocation of state funds for the operation of state services. Teacher evaluations carry absolutely no financial implications for the state budget," says OFT paresident Sue Taylor. "This is an end run around S.B. 5 and just simply not appropriate." [Roger Glass, OFT, Columbus Dispatch/photos by Alysia Burton]

June 29, 2011