While an overused description, yesterday’s meeting of over 700 unionists at the Pipefitter’s Union Hall in Columbus, Ohio certainly qualifies as an historic gathering. Even in the sweltering heat, the huge, enthusiastic crowd poured into the union hall to hear Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, national AFL-CIO Rich Trumka and others lay out, in detail, the wide program of mobilization organized labor and its allies intend to put into effect to win repeal of SB 5, the Republican sponsored bill that would end bargaining rights for public workers in that state.

Burga broke from his prepared speech opening the event to tell the cheering, chanting crowd that “it’s official, we’ve been certified! 915,000 signatures, the most on a referendum in the history of our state, have been validated to place the recall of SB 5 on the November ballot!”

Burga went on, with a blistering attack on the current Kasich administration in Ohio and corporate politicians nationally.

“The 80’s ushered in a new type of government,” he said, “one that did not support working families or the regular people that work to keep our nation going, but one that did everything possible to support only the wealthy investor class, at the expense of the rest of us! SB 5 is the culmination of 30 years of extreme corporate right wing rule, ruling only in the benefit of Wall Street, not Main Street.”

“Kasich showed us what he wants for us recently when he visited a local Bob Evans restaurant. Bob Evans workers get few, and poor, benefits, but Kasich stated publicly; ‘If those benefits are good enough for Bob Evans workers, then they’re good enough for the rest of us!’”

Speaking of the repeal campaign, Burga spoke stated that the referendum “is not just a referendum on SB 5, but it is a referendum on the failed policies of Kasich and his corporate allies.”

A detailed program of organizing and mobilization was then laid out, including a “Labor to Neighbor Program” that highlights the fact that union members no longer have to only stop at union households on the labor walks, that unions can now speak to everyone on our issues. Setting up on independent labor-led political structures that can reach into all union locals in Ohio, as well as special programs to mobilize communities of color in the anti-SB 5 campaign were laid out. Massive phone campaigns, a wide media offensive and a “Friends and Family Program,” to mobilize family members and communities were also highlighted. A recent poll, showing 54%-32% support for the repeal SB 5 legislation was cited.

AFL-CIO President Trumka forcefully talked about the national importance of the fight on SB 5.

“One way or another,” stated Trumka, “SB 5 is a game-changer! The whole nation is watching Ohio right now. Pro-corporate forces want to use this as a stepping stone toward destroying the middle class in our nation, toward developing a nation of only extreme rich and extreme poor. Working folks, meanwhile are looking here, hopeful that we will stop this assault on organized labor and working people, and beat them back. Well, they’ve been trying, first in one state, then another, to drive us down, but we’re still standing, Brothers & Sisters. When this fight is over and the dust clears we’ll still be standing and we’ll have delivered a blow that’ll knock those corporate jerks on their butts for a long time to come!”

“They thought that they could divide us,” Trumka said, speaking forcefully on the need for unity, “they thought they could split Black from White, like they always try to do. Split immigrant form native born workers, women from men, young from old, and here they tried to split the safety forces off from other public workers and have a ‘special deal.’ They didn’t count on our Unity. But because of our Unity, we will win!”

Local cookouts, parties, house meetings were announced, starting next week, to celebrate the historic referendum victory and to kick off the public campaign to win the fight to repeal SB 5 in the November election.

“They picked the wrong fight this time,” stated Don Coulter, President of Columbus SOAR, and (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees). “They’ve taken and taken and taken, and people are really fed up this time. I’ve never seen everyone so strong and united. We’re going to win in November and I think that’ll just be the first of many!”