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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/19/11

US Workers: Resurgent or Waging a Rearguard Action?

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Building on Middle East and Wisconsin momentum, over 1,000 people rallied in Ohio's Columbus Statehouse on February 15, opposing Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a measure eliminating collective bargaining rights for 40,000 state workers, reducing it for firefighters, police, teachers, and others, as well as facilitating other draconian measures when existing contracts expire. They include wage and benefit cuts, elimination of seniority-based pay increases and job security, heading toward ending all worker rights, including empowering government to abrogate worker contracts in case of "emergencies."

Similar anti-worker schemes are proceeding in other states, including California, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and eventually perhaps most, if not all, unless sustained Wisconsin momentum intervenes everywhere.

In Ohio, Republican legislators and Governor John Kasich (a former congressional Republican stalwart), support SB5. The bill's author, Senator Shannon Jones, backed it "to give the government flexibility and control over its workforce," leaving no doubt where she, Kasich and most state lawmakers stand - united against worker equity, job security, wages, benefits, and pension rights to make Ohio more "competitive" for business.

Angry workers responded, knowing their hard-won gains will be lost if SB5 passes which seems likely. Lashing out, a firefighter told AP: "When you take away collective bargaining, we have no rights at all." At a Columbus press conference, a retired state employee warned:

"We're not going back to the 20th century. We're going back to the 19th century. These are the stories that Charles Dickens wrote about, those kind of employers. If you allow this to happen, what comes next?"

Kasich said he's committed to SB5, regardless of public sentiment, adding that if passage fails, he'll prohibit state worker strikes in his upcoming budget proposal. In mid-February, addressing the Ohio Newspaper Association, he said:

"I can promise you that big-city mayors favor what I'm doing. They want this. They're not going to tell you that, but they want this," meaning, of course, he'll assure they get it and more.

Indiana workers take note. On January 27, AP's Deanna  Martin headlined, "Indiana panel OKs bill limiting teacher bargaining," saying:

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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