With polls showing 61% of Americans supporting public employees’ right to bargain collectively, the Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up Wednesday morning at the Local 413 Teamsters Hall to help the crowd of union members and community leaders shout and chant their agreement, and their opposition to Republican attempts to take away those rights. It was vintage Jackson —excellent insights into the workings of our economic and political systems, punctuated with slogans, some brilliant, all irresistible:

I know you’re tired, “One day more! One day more!”
“ Egypt learned from us…They were disciplined and peaceful.”
“Collective bargaining, not collective begging! Collective bargaining, not collective begging!”
“It’s not just about bargaining. It’s not just about Democrats. It’s about democracy!”
On the “misadventures” in Iraq and Afghanistan : “We love the soldiers, but not the veterans.”
“Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!”
“When Ohio State plays Michigan , there has to be a referee. The playing field is level. The goals are clear. But there
has to be a referee.”
Glass-Steagall was the referee for our banking system, but they got rid of it. Then “bankers got free money and charged
fees on it.”
“We have a great President. He needs our help.”
“We’re gonna act—we’re not goin’ back! We’re gonna act—we’re not goin’ back!”
“Tell the Governor—we’re gonna act—we’re not goin’ back!”
“Reconcile business, labor, and government.”
“FDR’s Glass-Steagall put a roof on the ‘banksters.’”
“FDR put a roof on greed and a floor for the poor!”
“FDR put a roof on greed and a floor for the poor!”
Republicans “removed the roof.”
They “globalized capitalism, not children’s rights.”
“It’s time to rebuild America !”
“Keep hope alive!”

It was a great rally, with many groups participating—including NAACP, Progress Ohio, Ohio AFL-CIO and a number of affiliates, and various church ministers. County Commissioner Marilyn Brown was singled out for her help in getting the Commissioners to support the actions of the public employees.

For those of you reading this with an OEA background, there was no official representation or mention of teacher association involvement with the Central Labor Council, the body which includes all of Central Ohio ’s organized labor groups. During my service with CEA, I was proud of taking the Columbus teachers into the council to join in solidarity with other unions. We also formed the Alliance of City Teachers, (ACT) which, along with Columbus , included Cleveland , Toledo , Cincinnati , AFT locals, and Akron , an independent. We felt it was important for the large cities, having some common problems, to work together. The big city superintendents followed suit—all of the urban centers working together for better schools.

CEA’s first real involvement with other unions in Central Ohio came in 1975, as CEA President Ted Thomas and I saw a possible strike coming, and wanted the support of those unions. Wednesday, I couldn’t help thinking back to my first trip to this Teamster Hall, when Thomas and I had gone there in ’75 looking for Teamster help. In those days, the Teamsters had a reputation of being the tough guys in town, and we weren’t sure how welcome we’d be. Only the week before, a gunshot had been fired through the window of the president’s office. We called ahead, and when we arrived, doors were opened for us and we were ushered into the inner office of Vito Mango. He was friendly and supportive. After listening to our story, he picked up the phone and called a lieutenant. “This is Vito. The teachers are going on strike, and we’re supporting them.”

Today, as public employees and all unions feel under the gun from the Koch brothers’ lieutenants, like Ohio Governor John Kasich, labor is very much together, including the Teamsters. Let’s hope the CEA, OEA, and NEA leaders will cooperate fully with united labor and the rest of the progressive community. It’s time for all of us to coalesce and communicate. We are the majority, demographically. Working together, we can become the electoral majority as well.

Coalesce and communicate—with the majority. Take the offensive for a progressive future!


Jack Burgess is a retired teacher, former Executive Director of the Columbus Education Assn., and former Chief of Arbitration Services, Ohio ’s Office of Collective Bargaining. His writings on labor, education, government, & politics appear in various Ohio and national publications.