“This is Ground-Zero, D-Day for worker rights in Ohio,” said Firefighter John Anthony. “It really is one for all & all for one, now! We all need to stand together for the rights to bargain, or we’ll all loss our rights!”

Anthony stated that his family had been part of this struggle their entire lives. His family had been fired from the railroad for standing up for worker rights during the Rhodes administration in the ‘70’s.

“I’d like to think we’re fighting for him, also,” he said!

He was part of the massive crowds of workers that crammed into the Ohio Statehouse this past week, protesting the anti-labor SB-5, which would strip Ohio’s public workers of the hard-won bargaining rights. The crowds of angry workers are growing, as a series of mobilizations gripped Ohio’s Capital. Crowds of 800, then 2,000, and over 4,000 this past Thursday have packed the Capital building in Columbus. Another, much larger mobilization is expected on Tuesday, the 22nd.

SB 5, sponsored by first-term state senator, Shannon Jones (R-Springfield) would strip Ohio’s public workers of the right to bargain over health care, pensions and benefits, would establish so-called “merit pay” for state workers and would wipe out binding arbitration for the state’s safety forces.

“If you think collective bargaining is a gift to organized labor, you’re wrong,” stated Hershel Sigall, counsel for the Ohio State Trooper’s Association. He spoke of the more than 25 work stoppages he’d been involved in prior to the state bargaining bill being passed in 1984. “Bargaining works well for both sides,” he stated!

Signs carried by the workers reflected a serious, militant mood. “Union Rights are Human Rights,” “Hitler Outlawed Unions in ’33, Kasich wants to in 2011,” “Bargaining Works for Everyone, Ending it Works for Millionaires” reflected just some of the signs, all within a sea of “Vote No on 5” signs!

“This is not about just unions,” said Lorain nurse & SEIU member Sue Moreno, “its about communities. Who do these Republicans think will be buying goods at local stores if unions are busted? If workers lose health care & pensions, it will cripple the tax bases of all our communities. This is what they put up as a solution during a recession? This is a Depression-maker!”

The hearing room, holding a few hundred, was completely packed during testimony on the bill, with thousands more packed into a huge overflow room and into the hallways.

The massive crowds erupted into catcalls and chants of “No on 5” when David Kershner, representing the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, testified that SB 5 would “actually help Ohio workers because it would give managers the freedom to manage!” He went on, to jeers of the massive crowd, stating that “merit pay could actually raise worker’s pay!”

“Only if you wash the boss’s car,” yelled Sam Williams, retired Columbus autoworker.

Senator Sorbino (D-Warren), was greeted with thunderous cheers as he questioned Kershner, demanding “Why do you keep lying, you know that public employees make 3.5% LESS than workers in the private sector?”

After Sobano cited numerous studies that backed his position and supported public bargaining, Kershner could only answer that; “We found another one!”

The right wing Tea Party group had announced that they would “mobilize thousands” to rally to support the bill. However, they were nowhere to be seen in the massive crowds of workers.

Columbus teacher Jennifer Brothers said that she’d seen a couple of them, however. “They harassed us when we went to get a pop down the street,” she said. “I have $52,000 of student loans and a house mortgage. I live in the community where I teach, and I went into teaching because it is a work of love,” she said. “If this passes I may have to leave the state!”

“I saw it, and I remember what it was like before teachers got the right to bargain,” said her friend, retired teacher Carol Rafferty. “We had to buy teaching aides from our own money and lived near poverty. Now teachers can do what they love, teaching, and live in dignity!”

The ‘Tea Baggers’ did finally appear, holding a pathetically small rally of around 100 supporters of the bill on Thursday. They were literally swamped, however, by the over 4,000 workers packing the capital building. That didn’t stop the anti-worker ‘Columbus Dispatch’ from leading on Friday with the banner headline; “Both Sides Battle Over Bargaining.”

Local reports have begun to highlight differences within the Republican caucus over the extreme features of SB 5. As many as a half dozen Republican senators from working class communities are reported to being feeling the pressure and could be pushed toward a No vote, it is believed.

Sen. Scott Oelslager of Canton was most vocal, stating that he had been “a strong supporter of collective bargaining my whole life and I’m not about to change now!”

Republican Gayle Manning (R-Lorain) spoke of meeting with local teachers in order to propose compromises. Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) stated that he felt the section of the bill replacing multi-year teacher contracts with forced one year contracts was “unfair,” because school administrators mostly have five year contracts.

The Democratic senatorial caucus is united in their strong opposition to SB 5.

“When did state workers cause this crisis,” asked Don Coulter, retired steelworker & president of Columbus SOAR? “They pass tax abatements and change the tax code for the wealthy, and then they bail out the billionaires, but when we can’t buy things they want to blame the workers. This time they’ve gone too far!”