Members of the Shawnee Labor Council gathered with local officials and community supporters Saturday in the garage of the Portsmouth Fire Department on Gallia Street to make their voices heard in opposition of Senate Bill 5.
The GOP-backed measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of about 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees squeaked through the state Senate on a 17-16 vote. Six Republicans sided with Democrats against the measure. The bill now heads for consideration in the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives.
We have a representative now in Terry Johnson and we want to make sure he goes up there and fights for the people of southern Ohio, said Austin Keyser, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers No. 575, and secretary general of the Shawnee Labor Council.
State Rep. Johnson, R-89, told the Daily Times earlier this week that he doesnt know yet what the bill will look like when it comes to a vote in the House of Representatives, but he cited job creation as one of his biggest goals in office and said he supports union workers.
Keyer said Johnson said he would not support the bill in its current form, but Keyser and the Shawnee Labor Council want the bill, in any form, killed. He called the bill an assault on the working people of southern Ohio. Keyser said he has an appointment to meet with Johnson this week.
We want to know where he stands. Theres a dark line here and youre either on one side or youre on the other. This isnt a position that you can take a grey area on, Keyser said.
The fire station garage was packed-full of people Saturday, waving signs that read Kill the Bill, and likening the legislation to Nazi Germany and Gov. John Kasich (whom they called Kay-Suck) to Hitler. Shouting through a megaphone from atop a picnic table, Keyser told the crowd how Kasich was paid $50,000 for 36 hours of public speaking at The Ohio State University.
Thats almost $1,400 an hour, and then he says that school teachers and college professors that do it full-time everyday are worth nothing. That they deserve to be cut back a notch. I mean, that money came from a public university. Where does he think that money came from? Thats taxpayer dollars. Why is he worth so much more than you are? Keyser prompted.
He said Kasich also gave raises of an average of $40,000 a year to members of his inner circle. He accused the governor of bringing his arrogant CEO persona to the statehouse.
Big bonuses and big pay hikes for the people at the top, and how are they going to pay for it? Theyre going to cut the people at the bottom, Keyser said. Its the same concept we see in the private sector. Its the same thing that the private sector is fighting against, and hes bringing that here.
Members of Portsmouth City Council last week voted 5-1 to support collective bargaining with a local resolution. Councilmen John Haas, Rich Saddler, and City Solicitor Mike Jones also participated in the rally to read the resolution. Haas called the bill an attack on the middle class of Ohio.
We want to send a message to Gov. Kasich that we believe our union workers, our city workers, police and fire and teachers, all deserve a decent wage and benefits. We respect the job that teachers do teaching our kids, and police and fire protecting our kids, he said.
Shawnee State University Faculty Senate President Dr. Chip Piorot also read the Faculty Senates resolution regarding Senate Bill 5.