The referendum campaign to place SB 5, the legislation to take away public worker’s collective bargaining rights in Ohio, culminated on Thursday in a massive ‘People’s Parade’ to the Secretary of State’s office to turn in petitions. 233,000 signatures, or 3% of the electorate in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties were needed to qualify the issue being placed on November’s ballot. The huge labor-led ‘We Are Ohio’ coalition got that number, and then some! On Thursday a march of an estimated 10,000 Ohioans wound down Broad St. in Columbus and in turned in 1.3 MILLION signatures!

“This is truly impressive, it really gave me chills,” said OCSEA representative Bill Otten. “Now is when the real fight begins. We have to build a political machine that will represent the people and overcome the millions of dollars the corporate side will spend against us in November.”

The huge ‘People’s Parade’ accompanied a giant semi-truck, with “Repeal SB 5” on its side, which was packed to the brim with the 1.3 million signed petitions against the anti-labor bill. Leading the march was a bagpipe delegation of police from Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, and a huge banner, reading “We the People!” This was followed by a drum corps of inter-city youth from Columbus and a series of red “Fire Chief” cars, complete with Dalmatian dogs. Then came union after union, each in different colored shirts and cars, trucks, various community groups and finally hundreds of supporters on motorcycles.

“Our ancestors fought for equal rights and for collective bargaining, the rights that SB 5 takes away,” said AFSCME retiree Francis Henderson. “They went to jail, were beaten and some even gave their lives for these rights. Shame on us if we let these folks take those rights away. We have to fight!”

It had the look, feel, of a Solidarity Day in Ohio’s Capital city as cops, firefighters, steel & autoworkers, students, retirees and supporters poured in the COSI Park in downtown Columbus, preparing to march to the statehouse. Signs from many unions, plus many hand printed ones dotted the landscape. “Take Away Our Rights, Not Today,” “Hitler Outlawed Unions—1936, Kasich in Ohio—2011,” “People United Cannot be Defeated!”

Theresa Whitney, who works for the Ohio Education Association, represented the sentiment of many in the crowd when she stated, “I’m tired of corporate politicians and millionaires scapegoating teachers that work hard to educate our children! SB 5 is an assault on the middle, working, class, teachers, police, firefighters, city & state workers that keep our nation going. They’re tried to balance their budget on the backs of regular families while giving tax cuts to billionaires. We’re here to say that that won’t fly!”

‘We Are Ohio’ had announced just two weeks prior that they had obtained over 714,000 signatures and that they were setting a new goal of getting one million Ohioans on the petition to repeal SB 5.

“The most amazing thing,” according to Norm Wernet, Director of the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), “is not that we got a million signatures, although that is certainly a great victory. We needed 3% of the electorate from 44 counties in Ohio to qualify for the ballot, but what we got was over 6% in every single one of Ohio’s 88 counties. THAT is truly amazing!”

The final week kicked in a massive mobilization, including a major presence at Comfest, the big community music festival in Columbus. Started as a “counter-culture” festival, with progressive political values, in 1972, in recent years political activity had been discouraged or even banned. That changed and Comfest returned to its roots, with a bang, this year.

Comfest staff endorsed the anti-SB 5 campaign, and all its volunteers wore shirts bearing “Worker’s Rights are Human Rights,” as did all the Comfest beer mugs. Numerous unions had booths, with anti-SB 5 petitions, this year and union and anti-SB 5 speakers spoke from the stages. Steel & auto workers petitioned at all the, numerous, beer lines.

“The old spirit was back this year,” said Leslie Zak, a performer who sang union, progressive songs supporting the campaign.

The old ;progressive spirit is set to receive another big boost on Labor Day this year, as a big Labor Day fest has been scheduled for Columbus, after years of absence.

“We are asked by God if we are our Brother’s keeper,” stated Rev, Dale Snyder, pastor of AME Church in Columbus. “We are here to say that Yes, we are, we are our Brother’s keeper! This is about our civil rights, not just some people’s rights, but ALL of ours, and we’re here to said that we all must stand together, united, and united we will be victorious!”