More than 10,000 Ohioans turned out in more than 13 locations across the state March 15 to attend "Stand Up for Good Jobs and Strong Communities" rallies, and say "enough is enough" when it comes to attempts to balance the state's budget on the backs of workers and the middle class. The rallies were organized by a coalition of faith, community, student, labor and civil rights groups.
In Cincinnati, speakers, including AFT executive vice president Lorretta Johnson, expressed outrage over Senate Bill 5, which would take away the bargaining rights Ohio public employees have had for nearly three decades. The bill has passed the state Senate and is currently being taken up by the Ohio House of Representatives. If the measure becomes law, teachers, police officers, nurses and other public employees no longer would have a voice in advocating for good working conditions or practices that protect children and the public safety, said Johnson.
She also noted that the budget proposed by Gov. John Kasich would block the path to economic recovery for Ohio's families and communities.
Cincinnati teacher Lee Black attended the rally there. "The teachers in Ohio, the unions in Ohio, the firefighters, the police officers—We're all standing up and wanting to make a statement because we want our collective bargaining rights."
Citizens in other Ohio towns and cities also turned out for events in large numbers, many braving the rain to express their opposition to S.B. 5 and the governor's budget.
In Westerville, hundreds of protesters, including firefighters and teachers, marched from Westerville Central High School to Gov. Kasich's residence. The crowd stretched a full mile from the high school to the governor's home.
On the day before the "Good Jobs, Strong Communities" events, Toledo Federation of Teachers president and AFT vice president Francine Lawrence participated in news conference, where she was joined by the Rev. Cedric Brock, the leader of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Toledo and other pastors from the area.
"Attacks on working families are attacks on all of us," Rev. Brock said. "Labor, civic organizations, civil rights groups and religious leaders are all coming together to speak out against efforts to take away the collective bargaining rights that have allowed so many of our neighbors, friends and parishioners to solidify a place in the middle class."
More information about what's happening in Ohio is available on the AFT website. [Roger Glass, Cleveland Plain Dealer, ColumbusLocalNews.com, Fox19.com; photos by Bruce Crippen]
March 16, 2011