I came straight from work tonight to the vigil/rally in the Statehouse Atrium this afternoon. From the sound of the crowd gathered, I knew that the outcome was not good. Senate Bill 5, which would forbid state workers from striking, and which greatly weakens collective bargaining, passed by a margin of 17-16. The only heartening news is that several Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the bill. I don’t see this happening in the Ohio House.
Above is some of the video footage which I took once I was in the Atrium. I came in through the west doors and crossed the rotunda, the same rotunda where Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state 98 years to the day before I was born. All I had to do was follow the sound of the crowd, magnified by the high marble walls and open spaces.
The Atrium was full of union workers–many teachers, state workers (such as myself), police officers, and firefighters. Many unionists were private sector, such as IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and SEIU (Service Employees International Union). I remember many anti-war demonstrations I attended in Washington during the Reagan Administration, where there was a strong union presence, especially the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Teamsters.
Joe Hill’s quote “Don’t mourn, organize!” became clichéd from overuse, when I’d see it everywhere from bumper stickers to placards to sidewalks. However, the people I saw gathered this evening seemed to be taking that to heart. Licking wounds and hand-wringing is a luxury union people do not have.
I’ve long ago lost count of how many political and social demonstrations I’ve attended in my lifetime. I played hooky from high school one weekend in my senior year to hitchhike to Washington to protest U.S. policy in El Salvador, I went to Wayne State University to represent the Unitarian Church at an anti-draft conference, and the list is a long one. In this case, the majority of the people there today were appearing for the sake of their livelihoods, especially the teachers. I am a state worker, and the only time I feel my life is at risk is when the freight elevator makes a strange noise when I’m aboard. However, my fellow state workers in the Division of Rehabilitation and Corrections were demonized by the proponents of this bill, and they risk their lives every day when they’re exposed to hostile, dangerous, and desperate inmates who literally have nothing more to lose.
There were also the usual crowd of people who appear at every rally, whether it’s protesting the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, to rallies against police brutality, to pro-choice. Many are in their late teens and early 20s, and are zealously committed to the cause, carrying the most prominent placards, handing out flyers and the latest issue of Revolution (formerly known as Revolutionary Worker.) I’m cynical and skeptical enough to take for granted that if I Googled their names in 15-20 years, at least three or four of them will have gone the David Horowitz route.