Occupy Columbus, union workers declare solidarity at Ohio Capitol
The poem issued forth from the speakers at the podium, reverberating off the western face of the Ohio Capitol.
We are firefighters and policemen. We are the reason your house is safe. The strength in the middle of the night when hope brews and faith is tested.
We are a people of service, not slavery. We will not allow your bill to turn into buckles at our ankles, clinking chains and slithering screams.
The poem, written and read by schoolteacher Isaiah Thomas at Occupy Columbus’ Tuesday afternoon event, was addressed to Governor John Kasich, champion of the bill she referenced in the poem, Senate Bill 5, which has united public workers determined not to submit to the seizure of collective bargaining and suspension of third-party arbitration and strikes, provisions contained in the law that goes in front of voters on Nov. 8 via a veto referendum known as Issue 2.
The Occupy event was intended to galvanize the relationship between union workers and the economically-disenchanted Occupy activists, who have taken cue from similar protests being held on Wall Street in New York.
One speaker sought a connection between the unionized laborers and the protesters, referring to Kasich and other politicians as puppets being manipulated by the “1 percent,” the Occupy movement’s label for the wealthiest one percent of Americans, who they allege unfairly hold 85 percent of the nation’s wealth.
A member of the Occupy Columbus legal team, Justin Poulin, reciprocated the sentiment.
“We also want the ability to collectively bargain,” he said, adding that Occupy Columbus was not only against SB5, but also against future legislation or riders in bills attempting to implement elements of the contentious bill into other legislative packages.
“[SB5 supporters] have a game-plan,” he said. “Well, we have a counter-punch waiting for them every step of the way.
“And we aren’t going anywhere.”
Other speakers, mostly associated with the protest movement, also took to the podium, with one asserting the “the labor peace of today will give way to the labor wars of tomorrow.”
Among the protesters were teachers, one of whom pointed out that the automatic pay-raises for teachers, which has been used to vilify teachers’ unions to depict them as greedy, were created “in there,” gesturing at the Statehouse. SB5 would do away with automatic pay-raises, an attempt to curb the costs of teachers to school districts and to implement merit-based pay, allowing districts to qualify for federal education money from President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.