COLUMBUS, OHIO – What began here in the darkest days of winter ten months ago, on the steps of a statehouse whose doors were locked to its own citizens, ended Tuesday night in the stunning defeat of Gov. John Kasich’s anti-worker Senate Bill 5.
Ohio voters repealed the bill in a citizens’ veto, rejecting Senate Bill 5’s elimination of collective bargaining, its silencing of workers’ voices, and its direct attack on working, middle class families.
“Tonight, Ohioans delivered a clear message to corporate-backed politicians across the country that we will no longer stay silent as Wall Street tries to steal the American Dream,” said AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee.
The bill was backed not only by Kasich and his party, but also by a fraternity of outside corporate interests ranging from the billionaire Koch brothers to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who poured millions into the campaign. Their well-funded efforts to demonize nurses, firefighters, school teachers, bus drivers and all other public employees failed in the face of unprecedented activism by a coalition of public and private sector union employees.
“This was a brazen attempt to silence the voice of the 99%; the voters saw through it and vetoed it,” said McEntee. “A Main Street movement has begun and tonight we sent a message to all politicians to end the attacks on the economic and retirement security of the working middle class.”
AFSCME members and others erupted into cheers when the repeal of Senate Bill 5 was announced at the large gathering of We Are Ohio volunteers in downtown Columbus.
Tears streaming down her face, BJ Simmons-Talley, an Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE/AFSCME Local 4) member who has driven a school bus since the 1970s, said, “I am proud to be an Ohioan!”
AFSCME Council 8 zookeeper Matthew De Voe was similarly elated.
“I am breathing a sigh of relief right now,” he said. “If this had passed I might have lost my house. I looked at my kids the other night and had this fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide for them. Tomorrow I can go back to work energized.”
School bus driver Karen Holdridge of OAPSE couldn’t stop smiling.
“We did it,” she said. “We made history. I am so proud of our unions. We stood up and said, ‘We are Americans and you cannot take our rights away.’”
Wearing a black T-shirt that said “11.08.11 – The Day We Make History,” Ohio State Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11) member Louella Jeter was reveling in the results.
“I hope this sends a message to other governors that instead of trying to take collective bargaining away from people they should sit down with them,” Jeter said. And she believes the vote showed the strength of her union and others. “Once everybody comes together it sends a message. We are strong.”