The citizens of Ohio took back their state with a historic vote on Nov. 8 to repeal Senate Bill 5. The vote, which marks the first time that the collective bargaining rights of public employees have been upheld on a statewide ballot, sends a clear signal that Ohioans will not sit idly by while politicians scapegoat hard-working public employees for an economic crisis they did not create.
"The repeal of Senate Bill 5 was a victory for every teacher who helps a struggling child, every firefighter who races into a burning building, every snowplow operator who ensures safe travel for others, and every community that relies on these vital public services," AFT president Randi Weingarten says. "Ohioans said loud and clear that they would not turn their backs on the people who watch theirs. The historic citizens' veto was a victory for all Ohioans, and for all Americans who care about democracy and fair play."
"Those who would dare try to strip collective bargaining rights away from hard-working citizens will now think twice," she adds. "Ohio voters made it clear to them that there is a price to pay for turning your back on the middle class."
The election victory resulted from an incredible grass-roots campaign that engaged citizens from all corners of the state. More than 10,000 volunteers collected 1.3 million signatures to place Issue 2 on the ballot, and then worked tirelessly to make sure their families, friends and neighbors understood what was at stake.
AFT members were instrumental in the successful effort. The Cleveland Teachers Union phone bank made well over 300,000 calls. Volunteers like Joanne Qunnie, a paraprofessional, put in countless shifts. Linda Golba, a retired teacher, gathered thousands of signatures. And Annette Chase, a full-time teacher, worked up to 20 hours a week making sure that her fellow Ohioans knew what was at stake.
"These volunteers knew that when teachers have a voice in the workplace, they are better advocates for children," Weingarten says. "They knew that families are healthier when nurses can speak out for better care and more staffing. And they knew that their communities are safer when firefighters and police officers have a say when it comes to staffing to reduce response times or obtaining needed safety equipment like defibrillators."
The Ohio Federation of Teachers, led by president Sue Taylor, was a prominent partner in the statewide coalition working to repeal the law. "Ohioans said loud and clear that taking away the rights of workers does not solve our state's economic problems," she says. "Voters chose to support the idea that workers should retain their right to have a voice and dignity in their workplace."
Now, Weingarten says, it is "time for all Ohioans to work together to address the challenges that lie ahead: providing all our children a great education, rebuilding our infrastructure and putting our people back to work." [AFT press release]