Ohio rally hits Chamber of Commerce union-busting forum

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- The Chamber of Commerce here got much more turnout for the anti-union seminar at the local country club than they expected, or wanted, for that matter.

The Ross County Chamber had issued a call for a Jan. 23 seminar on “Stopping the Employee Free Choice Act/Standing Up to Big Labor.” They expected a turnout of business types to plot strategy to oppose the proposed labor law reform that would strengthen worker’s right to organize. What they got was a big turnout, but of unionists and union supporters.

Around 50 union members, SEIU, USW and Building Trades, showed up for a noisy pro-Employee Free Choice Act rally outside. Braving the frigid weather, the unionists marched at the entrance to the country club, waving and shouting to passing motorists.

“I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we got here, but I know it wasn’t this,” said rally organizer Gabe Kramer, an SEIU union leader. “I thought there would be some friendly faces, but this is overwhelming, almost every other car waves or gives a thumbs up!”

The rally and reaction seemed to reflect a recent public opinion poll showing 78 percent support for the act that would help “level the playing field” for workers if they want to organize a union. Currently employers have much greater legal leverage to keep workers from organizing.

The turnout for the anti-union seminar itself was miserable. Only a few cars entered the country club and most stopped to accept the union flyer that was given to those going in. A couple of the motorists stopped and talked and were friendly. At least two of those entering said that they were union members and just wanted go in and speak up in favor of the free choice bill.

“We are tax paying, good hard working citizens of Ross County,” said Eric Stevenson, resource director for the Pipefitters Union, as he spoke to the pro-union rally. “Because of our union, and the other unions here, small businesses can sell their refrigerators, TVs and local restaurants can stay alive. We support our community, our schools and our members have health care coverage and retire with decent pensions. In fact, it is really because of union folks that some of those people up at that country club can afford to go there. What we want is democracy for workers, and we will pass the Employee Free Choice Act so workers can have real democracy.”

The turnout and the atmosphere at the Ross County anti-union seminar matched reports of a similar event held the previous month in Cleveland. Turnout at that event was also small and the crowd was very pessimistic of the possibility of defeating the Employee Free Choice Act, according to reports.

“I had worked for a non-profit group before joining the union,” said Whitney Whitt, “but I feel like we’re really able to help bring about real change with the union. The union is able to really help working families. When we pass employee free choice it’ll help millions more.”