Ohio: We’re All In This Together

by Joseph Riedel

I have spent the last three Tuesdays at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, fighting to preserve collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. I’m doing this for many reasons. First, I am a union staff member whose organization represents thousands of public sector workers in Ohio. Secondly, I am a labor activist who wants to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Ohio. Thirdly, I am a taxpayer who knows that this is not about the budget, and that if the GOP is able to end collective bargaining in the public sector, they will not stop there. They will come after the private sector too.

What I’ve witnessed in Columbus over the last few weeks has been nothing short of amazing. Frankly, it’s quite different than what the media has portrayed it to be. This is to be expected. The media in our country is bought and paid for by the same people who are funding the efforts to end collective bargaining rights in Ohio and Wisconsin. The media has portrayed the demonstrations in Ohio as a small number of out-of-state union workers. The truth is that, unlike the tea party demonstrations, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators in Columbus are Ohioans. They are coming from all corners of the state, and what the media has failed to report, is that many of them are not union members. They are simply citizens of Ohio who disapprove of what Governor Kasich and the GOP members in the Ohio State Legislature are doing.

I’ve witnessed incredible solidarity between every independent and affiliated union you can imagine. I’ve seen retirees, high school and college students, puppets(yes, puppets), presidents of international unions, nuns, law enforcement officers, nurses, farmers, stay-at-home mothers, and today I even saw Firefighters wearing kilts. This struggle may be based on labor issues, but it encompasses who we are as American citizens, and our right to have a voice in our workplace. While Senate Bill 5 may have narrowly passed the Ohio State Senate, you can bet that Ohioans will have the final word, when it is placed on a ballot initiative. The line has been drawn in the sand in Ohio, Wisconsin, and every other state of the union. It’s time for us to ask the American people, Which Side Are You On?

Joseph Reidel is an organizer for SEIU 1199. Follow his thoughts on labor and unions at The Virtual Picket Line blog. View more of his photos from the Columbus protests.

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