We wont go back!: Ohio unionists rally for human rights

“We can’t win in the bankers’ court,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, told the cheering crowd of over 1,000 UAW workers, mostly Delphi employees, in Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 10. Referring to the use of the bankruptcy courts by Delphi and other corporations to dump workers’ pensions and health care, Cohen declared “We can’t win in the bankers’ court, but we can win!

“We can win in the streets, the streets of Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Chicago and Dayton! We need to shut it down and take it all to Washington. By God, they’ll listen then,” Cohen yelled, to massive, prolonged applause.

The Dayton rally, in bitter cold and snow, was the second Ohio rally of the week. On Dec. 8, Stewart Acuff, AFL-CIO director of organizing, led hundreds of unionists and supporters on a march to a Columbus bank where workers are fighting to unionize.

“Workers’ rights are human rights,” Acuff declared. “For decades our ‘leaders’ have got around the globe preaching human rights to the rest of the world, all the while denying the basic human right to organize to workers at home.”

The Columbus and Dayton events were part of a series of rallies held throughout the nation during International Human Rights week, supporting the right of U.S. workers to unionize freely.

Speaking of the Delphi workers’ struggle, Lloyd Mahaffey, UAW Ohio director, said, “We will have a mobilization action at every UAW plant every single week until we win this fight,” He added, “We are calling for all UAW workers to wear red on Thursdays. Red is the color of the workers’ blood. It stands for the blood we’ve shed to gain these rights, and we will not let Delphi or any company take them away!”

The Dayton rally included busloads of striking steelworkers from Ormet, Ohio, as well as buses of AFSCME unionists from Warren.

Signs read, “Will work for $1, & $3 million in bonuses!” “$1.5 million a day for Iraq — Nothing for workers!” “Bush — you’re president of the USA, not Iraq!” and “We won’t go back!”

Ohio AFL-CIO President Bill Burga told the rally, “We fought a world war to defeat the Nazis, for human rights for all, but who has rights today? Not working people! Corporations have the ‘right’ to steal workers’ pensions, steal workers’ health care. The right to organize is a right that we’ve fought and died to gain. We intend to enforce that right!”

Burga read a letter from Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), now a candidate for Senate, stating that he is working in Congress to organize hearings on the Delphi situation, which the GOP majority had refused to do. Burga went on to say to the Delphi workers, to loud cheers, “All the unions of the AFL-CIO will stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight, until victory!”

Larry Slusher, president of UAW 913, said, “We will strike if Delphi continues to try to take away everything we’ve fought so hard and so long to gain. We won’t go back!”