In reaction to the introduction of three Right-to-Work bills by right-wing GOP Ohio legislators which would strip unions of negotiating power, organized labor and the huge We Are Ohio coalition are holding a series of 17 mass meetings in the state. The 14th such gathering was an overflow crowd last week at the Carpenters Union Hall in Columbus.

“The treat is real,” stated AFL-CIO rep Joan Fluharty opening the meeting. “For years we’ve told people that there is a threat that corporate politicians would try to jam Right-to-Work legislation thru the legislature here. Well, it’s no longer a threat! They’ve introduced the bills. It’s up to us to get organized & fight. If we don’t they’ll take everything we have!”

Meanwhile, the crowd was still piling in, with folks having to park in nearby lots, streets, the alley near the hall.

“We had to get here, this is our fight,” said Bob Gossman, president of the UAW Retiree Council. “We’ve seen what they did right next door in Indiana, Michigan & Wisconsin. Those are all strong union states. The right-wingers are out to destroy unions because we are the only line of defense workers have. Without unions, nobody is there to stop the corporate power-grab!”

Gossman was leading a large delegation of UAW workers and retirees into the meeting.

“They’ve all been like this, the halls just won’t hold them,” said Ohio AFL-CIO Political Director matt Smith. “The Republicans are really waking up our sleeping giant. Every meeting just keeps getting bigger and more enthusiastic.”

According to Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga;

“This is a fight they clearly don’t want to have right now, with the operative term being ‘right now.’ Last year they tried the same thing, attacking unions and the middle class with Senate Bill 5, and were given a solid whipping by Ohio voters. They’re still smarting from that, but we need to get ready, mobilized. They will try to bring them back, just like Republican Governors did in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. They all said they were against Right-to-Work, but jammed them thru anyway. They’re waiting on the lame-duck session next year and we have no intention of just sitting and waiting. With all our allies, we’re getting organized, educated and mobilized and united, we’ll win again!”

Republican Governor Kasich and GOP House Speaker Batchelder seemed to agree with those sentiments, as they moved quickly to kill the proposed anti-labor bills in the Ohio House. Right-wing Republican House reps Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) & Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) introduced three Right-to-Work, anti-labor, bills into the Ohio House on May 1st. However, after mobilization by unions and allies, with hundreds of workers lobbying reps at the statehouse and two large union-led rallies, the GOP leadership moved to sideline the bills.

“We’re stronger together,” shouted Mike Weiman, Political Affairs Director of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), addressing the overflow crowd. “They tried to divide us, one against another, last year and we told them---NO WAY! We’re Union & we are sticking with organized labor and the middle class. If they want another fight, we’ll just have to give them another beating!”

Wounded in the line of duty, Weiman addressed the crowd from his wheelchair. Pat Frost, OEA Political representative, told the crowd that “Right-to-Work” is a lie! Corporate spokesmen try to spin it as ‘worker’s rights,’ but nothing could be further from the truth. What it really means is $6,400 dollars less a year for every worker in RTW states. It means $362 less spent per student a year in those states. It means more workers’ accidents and less health care, higher infant mortality & less, far less, worker’s rights!”

“RTW is the brainchild in the ‘30’s of Vance Muse, an oil lobbyist with strong ties to segregationists. It is racist and anti-Semitic, anti-union and anti-middle class. This guy was against child labor laws and women’s right to vote. Just scratch the surface. That is where this was born!”

“This is just SB 5 all over again. We need to just let folks know that it’s really the same thing and we need every working person to help in this fight,” Dolores Tufaro, a teacher with a smart, snap-brim cap, told the cheering crowd. “This fight is in the interest of every working person, middle class person, everyone who isn’t a billionaire!”

Discussing immediate action plans, all present signed pledge cards, and groups were set up to begin visiting Ohio House reps, with the goal of forcing all to take a position of RTW. Others worked on letters to editors and outreach. Phone banks are now up and running. Nobody left empty-handed or looking for things to do.

“It never stops,” said Columbus Steelworker’s SOAR President Don Coulter. They just keep trying to take every gain workers fought for and won. But if they want the fight, there are more of us than them. We’ll whip them worst this time!”

People wanting to volunteer to help in the struggle can call the Ohio AFL-CIO at 614-224-8271, ask for Matt Smith or Jessica Jordan.