JEFFERSON, Ohio - "Create jobs, don't destroy them!," so stated Ashtabula County AFL-CIO President Ray Gruber at a demonstration held here, Monday, Feb. 28. The demonstration was held to protest Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which, if passed, would destroy collective bargaining for public workers.
The Ohio Education Association in conjunction with other area labor unions organized the demonstration and rally. Newly elected Republican State Representative Casey Kozlowski held a town hall meeting at Jefferson's Henderson Library to "hear from my constituents." Four hundred "constituents" turned out to tell him what they think about SB-5.
Teachers, school classified workers, state, municipal, and other union members and retirees marched, shouted slogans, carried signs supporting their unions and denouncing "union-busting" by Ohio's Governor John Kasich.
Nearly half of those present filed into the library and testified in front of Representative Kozlowski over a four-hour period, about the harm this bill would cause to them as individual workers and their families. Teachers and school workers pointed out they have not had a wage increase for many years due to the poor economy noting, "We are not the reason they have no money in the district."
Richard Downing, retired from the Department of Transportation, said the impact of SB-5 "would trickle down to workers who are not covered by collective bargaining, leaving all workers without a mechanism for addressing unfair practices."
The Ashtabula AFL-CIO and Retiree Council passed out a flyer that said: "Strong unions bring a good living to working families, more jobs and healthy business to local communities." The flyer also pointed out that the country enjoyed an economy that provided good living standards and good business profits when 37 percent of the total U.S. workforce belonged to unions.
Unionists pointed out to Kozlowski that the Ohio's "gap" between expenditures and income could be closed with no need to sacrifice public agencies and workers if real problems with the budget were exposed and dealt with.
Several proposals were announced including:
First, undo the 21 percent tax break passed by the Republican Taft Administration in 2005, costing the state treasury over two billion dollars per year. Meanwhile, 40 percent of this tax break went to those earning over $135,000 annually;
Second, close the corporate tax loophole. Ohio is one of only six states that have no corporate income tax. Another two billion lost to the state treasury; and third, close more of Ohio's 122 tax exemptions, as other states have done.
A call was made for supporters to attend at a rally Wednesday in the neighboring town of Painesville, and to load up the buses going back to Columbus this week.
Activists say the fight goes on.