Protesters rally against Senate Bill 5

Julie Sickel

Cries of “Hey hey, ho ho! SB five has got to go!” rang out over the sound of car horns Tuesday evening as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Canton Civic Center to protest Senate Bill 5.

“I think we need to mobilize opposition fast. It’s going to pass committee probably this evening and then it could be up for a full senate vote as early as tomorrow morning,” said Tom Bird, a Ravenna attorney whose wife and brother-in-law are teachers. “We need to follow Wisconsin’s model. If they’re going to fast track this bill, we need to fast track our opposition.”

Despite Bird’s concern of fast tracking, Senate Bill 5 is still in committee hearings, and the full Senate vote is yet to be scheduled. The bill proposes to take away protections for Ohio unions. The main issue under scrutiny is the elimination of collective bargaining — the process of voluntary negotiation between unions and employers for wages and benefits.

“I was there for the birth of collective bargaining; I will not stand for the wake,” said Ron Brabel of Canton, who was on the very first Ohio Civil Service Employees Association committee for collective bargaining. “This bill brings about a unity of labor that would never have occurred. So the blessing of this is that we’ve unified all of labor, and it will be evident in the coming presidential election and in the governor’s election in four years.”

Union members, as well as friends and family members of union workers, turned out to the demonstration to show their support.

“My mother had to work in conditions where they did not have unions, and she raised me to understand how important it is to have unions,” said Kelli Green, a teacher in the Perry Local School District in Massillon. “She did the same job that other teachers in her building did, but because she was a woman, she didn’t get paid as much. I came out here to fight for our collective bargaining rights.”

Protestors in Canton weren’t the only ones showing support for the opposition of Senate Bill 5. Members of the KSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors provided faculty members the opportunity to write Ohio senators about the bill.

“We provided all the labels, pre-made all the envelopes, we stuffed the envelopes, we made copies of the letters and we mailed them out personally,” said Coleen Casey, chapter coordinator of AAUP-KSU. “We’re very pleased with the number of faculty members who came in.”

Casey said the chapter mailed out two “fairly large” boxes of faculty letters so far.

Provost Robert Frank said the university has no official position on Senate Bill 5.

“It certainly is a complicated piece of legislation that would have a lot of implications for us as an institution,” Frank said. “We haven’t done any analysis to know whether it would save or cost the university money.”

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected]