Ohio workers, students: Why we fight

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Participants in Tuesday’s mass rally at the Ohio Statehouse tell the People’s World why they came:

Glen Dunaway, president of United Steelworkers Local 735, in Cleveland: “This is the most important fight of my life. I’ve been involved in this union for 23 years and everything I’ve fought for they are trying to take away in one swipe. This has been the Republican agenda all along – Get rid of the opposition. We’re not going to give away our rights. I’m doing this on my own time because I believe in this. We’re going to win this fight.”

Jim Speyer, Ohio Education Association member, junior high school science teacher in Riverdale, a suburb of Toledo, holding a sign reading “Republicans Against SB 5”: “I’ve been a Republican all my life, but I’m just about ready to change. There are 11 teachers in my family and four firefighters. You have to have the right to collective bargaining. This bill takes away rights of both teachers and students. It will lead to larger classroom size.”

Anne McPherson, retired Alcoa worker (UAW Local 1050) and Sandra Dulaney, retired food service worker, who came in a bus from the Democratic Party in Cleveland: McPherson said, “Kasich needs to be bringing in jobs, not cutting them.” Dulaney said, “My grandchildren are in college. They need something to fall back on. If we don’t fight, future generations won’t have anything. We need to stand firm as a people and a nation.”

Greg Zattau, sergeant-at-arms, Toledo Police Patrolmen’s Association, who came in a bus of firefighters and police: “We had a town hall meeting at the VFW hall last night. There were 450 people even though there was a freezing rain. We want to know why are they trying to rush this through?”

Mark Pelfrey, secretary, Firefighters Local 4027 in Springdale, near Cincinnati: “Our biggest concern is the attempt to eliminate binding arbitration for safety forces who have no right to strike. But the whole bill is bad. It eliminates seniority and establishes merit pay which only means nepotism, cronyism and favoritism.”

Mark Henderson, financial secretary, United Steelworkers Local 169, Mansfield: “This is the opening gun. If they get this, they will come after all the unions. They will go for a ‘right-to-work’ law. Kasich said ‘Get on my bus or I will run you over. If this passes, we’re next.”

Sydney Householder with a group of other students from the University of Akron: “How can you be for the people and against unions? Workers make up the people and unions get good paying jobs. We are also worried about cuts to education and higher tuition.”

Kelli Lanzot, SEIU Local 1199, corrections officer, Columbus: “I’m here because I was born and raised union. My father was a teamster. This bill would destroy our family. My husband works for the Department of Jobs and Family Services. He is in OCSEA (Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, representing state employees). “

Linda Higgins, retired librarian, and husband William, retired Operating Engineer Local 18, Chillicothe: Linda said, “I’m concerned about discrimination and gender bias. The only protection is your union. People have the right to bargain. Doing away with collective bargaining will not affect the deficit. You’re not going to save anywhere near eight billion dollars with this.” William said, “Without unions there’s nothing. People fought and died for this. Unions built this country.”

Terri Byers and Amy Grittani, elementary school teachers in Southwest City Schools outside Columbus, Ohio Education Association: Terri said, “We are fighting for our livelihood. We are fighting for every advantage for the children. My son is in the police academy. This affects our entire future.” Amy said, “We’re fighting for the future of Ohio, for the police and safety forces and for the nurses. How can we get kids to stay in Ohio if this passes? Our state senator, Jim Hughes, is a Republican. He has been endorsed by the OEA in the past because he has been a friend of education, but he won’t get our endorsement again if he supports this. We are having a lobby day next week and he will be hearing from us.”

Tara Thobe, sophomore studying political science at Ohio State University in Lima, an activist with Organizing for America from St. Mary’s: “I’m here because my grandpa was a union guy. He worked at Goodyear. Without that our whole family would be nowhere. And also I love teachers.” Tara said she does virtual phone banking for OFA calling registered voters of all parties in four western strongly Republican counties about SB 5. “The response is overwhelming against this bill,” she said. “Yesterday the OFA reached 4,000 people.”

Charley Andrew, truck driver, Political Action Committee chairman, Teamsters Local 407, Cleveland: “This bill is political payback to the unions because we supported Democrats. They want to cripple us for 2012. If they do this to the public unions, we will be next.”

Photo: Debbie Kline



Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.