Monday, February 28, 2011

Protect Workers' Rights Rally in Columbus - February 26

Teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public service employees joined with students, environmentalists and other citizens from across Ohio on Saturday, February 26 to rally in support of maintaining collective bargaining rights. The rally was the latest mass action over the last several weeks at the State House in Columbus organized against passage of Senate Bill 5. The roughly 500 people at the rally heard from a dozen speakers, mostly those representing public employees, talk about how the current $8 billion state budget deficit is being used as a pretext to eliminate the power of people in public unions to bargain collectively for wages and benefits.

I was one of the non-union speakers who addressed the crowd (the only person representing a religious organization) – focusing on the need to maintain unity despite our separate organizations and issues as well as to understand and work to link the immediate threat to collective bargaining with the larger issue of corporations wielding never-intended political power to influence elections and govern. Referencing the Wisconsin Wave, a new campaign to develop a broad democratic/self-governing platform (including the call for greater election integrity and an end to corporate personhood) I urged those in attendance to consider developing a similar platform in Ohio and to support the national effort, led by Move to Amend, to abolish corporate constitutional rights.

Among those in the crowd were several people from other parts of the state AFSC has worked with over the years – including Friends from Athens on democracy issues, student organizers in Columbus on antiwar issues and social workers from Columbus on affordable housing issues.

Also in the crowd was a brother and sister, Margo Kernan and Charlie Koester, from Akron whose mother Margie Koester, member of the Akron Friends Meeting, recently passed away. Margie was a longtime AFSC volunteer who rarely missed an AFSC organized or supported march and rally for peace or justice in Akron or DC. In small but noticeable letters on the edges of their “Defeat Issue 5” signs were written “Hi Mom!” “We’re here because of the issue but also because of her,” they said. “She’s here today in spirit.”

A march was held following the rally. It circled the State House grounds. Those on the streets and drivers in passing cars showed their support for worker rights with thumps up signs and a din of honking horns.

p.s. The one picture of people holding the “We the People” sign was held in front of a statue of former President and Ohioan William McKinley on the statehouse grounds. During his 1896 election for President, McKinley’s campaign manager, Marc Hanna, said, “There are 2 things important in politics. The first is money. I can’t remember what the second one is.” This captures well the fact that government increasingly has been captured by large monied and corporate interests — with agendas including eliminating worker rights and programs supporting people who don’t donate (or invest) to political candidates.

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