Hundreds of union workers gathered in the rotunda of Cleveland City Hall Monday night to rally against Ohio SB 5, which would eliminate public sector workers’ right to collective bargaining.
Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell led the rally, saying, “We’re at a tipping point. They want to push us over a cliff and kill us. No more unions. They don’t want to come to the table.” He recalled the stable, union-protected jobs that provided unemployment in his Glenville neighborhood when he was growing up, allowing parents to send him and his friends to college.
Council members Dona Brady, Mamie Mitchell, Jay Westbrook, Kevin Kelley, and Tony Brancatelli also spoke, along with Fairview Park Council President Michael Kilbane, a member of the ironworkers union; teachers union president David Quolke; Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis; firefighters’ union President Tom Lally; and Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Coast Federation of Labor.
State senator Nina Turner, using her signature slogan “We can’t go back, we WON’T go back,” exhorted the crowd to keep the pressure on the legislature and the governor. She said she’d just received a text message that the state Senate had postponed the floor vote on SB 5, and that she believed they were hoping to pass it quickly after the protestors who have been massing at the Statehouse for the last week and a half had gone away.
“Keep up the pressure!” she shouted.
After the rally, the crowd trooped upstairs to council chambers to observe the passage of a resolution by Cleveland City Council opposing SB 5. Almost a dozen council members spoke, many of them emphasizing their own connections to unions. Dona Brady talked about her firefighter father and how his union-negotiated pension allowed him to live securely at the age of 88 despite numerous health problems. Jeff Johnson talked about how his parents provided a middle-class life for his family as postal workers. Joe Cimperman reached back to his social-justice roots to make a moving plea on behalf of working people. The resolution passed unanimously.
Overshadowed by the hoopla over SB 5 was a rally in front of City Hall sponsored by the Green Party and organized by David Ellison, its candidate last year for county executive. About a dozen Greens and supporters held signs outside protesting the hike in water fees and the department’s lack of efficiency and transparency, and demanding the resignation of director Barry Withers. — Anastasia Pantsios