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Ohioans protest the anti-worker administration of Gov. John Kasich. Another rally is scheduled for Tuesday in Columbus. Call your local or Region 2B for details. Photo courtesy of Mike Kuhel.
Over the past two weeks, all across the country, hundreds of thousands of working families, students, community and religious leaders have joined together to raise their voices in pursuit of fairness and an economy that works for everyone. And while we still have far to go, we have much to be proud of.
UAW members joining with other union members and working families called on politicians to stop the partisan games and focus on finding balanced solutions that strengthen the middle class and create good jobs.
Although there are still many bad proposals being advanced, Republican governors in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania have heard us, and as a result sidestepped supporting policies that would undermine workers’ freedom to come together to bargain for a middle-class life:
WISCONSIN: Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly pushed through legislation stripping the state’s 170,000 public sector employees of their collective bargaining rights through an early-morning vote which was open for mere seconds to prevent Democrats from casting no-votes. The bill passed at 1:17 a.m., after cutting off debate, despite more than a dozen Democrats queued to try to amend it. Such backhanded politics incited Democrats and their pro-union supporters who had gathered in the gallery to cry out, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as Republicans walked through the hall. The powerful scene that can be viewed here.
Workers in New York City show their solidarity with workers in other states. Photo by Scott Sommer.
After all this, only 13 of the Assembly’s 38 Democrats were able to get their votes in on time, resulting in a 51-17 outcome. The bill is now slated to come before the Senate, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has deployed state troopers to hunt for Wisconsin senators who have staked out in Illinois to boycott the measure, which is likely to pass if votes are cast due to the Republican majority in that legislative body.
A poll conducted by right-wing political commentator Dick Morris shows that even Wisconsinites who support cuts are not willing to compromise the issue of collective bargaining. But the thousands who continue to protest around Wisconsin’s state capital could have told you that. Long-time activist and musician Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine had this to say.
INDIANA: Thousands of protesters in Indiana scored their first victory as Republican lawmakers withdrew “right-to-work” legislation that would have crippled the power of organized labor in that state. In an act of continued defiance, Democrats have vowed to remain in neighboring Illinois. They have submitted a list of 11 bills they say are concerns — including one that would limit collective bargaining rights for teachers and another that is currently on its way to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk which would cut benefits to the unemployed while raising taxes on businesses. Although Democrats know they will not reach favorable solutions on all 11 issues, they are taking a strong stance along with the people of Indiana who have taken to the streets of Indianapolis for the long haul.
OHIO: No fewer than 10,000 unionized workers and their supporters gathered around the state capital in Columbus, only to be shut out of the building. Some lawmakers took the side of protesters and helped to negotiate the entry of 500 protesters. State Senator Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat, was among them. "We invite them to take part and then we don't let them in,” Schiavoni said. “It is blatantly unfair."
The most recent polls show that 61percent of Ohioans are opposed to Senate Bill 5 – the measure that initially sought to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, but has since been altered to allow workers the chance to negotiate wages, but would continue to ban strikes. About 750 protesters met Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich when he landed outside of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport yesterday morning. UAW members stood with steel workers, teachers, firefighters and other union and community supporters waving signs and chanting "kill the bill," even with its changes.
In the meantime, Ohioans are organizing for an even larger protest at the Ohio State House on March 1 to protest Senate Bill 5. More than 25,000 activists are expected at the event. See the calendar for more information.
Working families have demonstrated the power of everyday people, joining with neighbors and friends, to make a real difference and enact change. And we’ve shown that without unions, without the ability of workers to join together, attacks on the middle class will go unanswered. Together, we continue to build on our successes of the past two weeks. We continue to build momentum and mobilize to stop the numerous anti-worker legislative attacks that threaten communities and working families.