March, 15, 2011- Cincinnati, Ohio — The rain didn’t keep the crowd away from the “Defend the Dream” rally on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. The estimated rally attendance topped 3,500. By 4:30 p.m., a sea of umbrellas covered the Square. Beneath them, union members and supporters waited to hear from a lineup of uplifting speakers. They carried signs. They chanted, “Kill the bill. Kill the bill. Kill the bill.” Their demands echoed across the Square and beyond rush hour traffic.
The Square became a multicultural mix of women and children of all ages. They made the trip to downtown Cincinnati to show solidarity with middle class brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and to protest Ohio Senate Bill 5. If passed, the bill would eliminate collective bargaining, a move seen as war on the middle class. Some used the opportunity to take a poke at 3-month Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
A clergyman from the Baptist Ministers Conference held in Cincinnati delivered the opening prayer. He talked about “killing the bill” and asked the crowd if they were “ready to go to work.” He prayed for the power to “fight back.” Sister Monica, a Sister of Charity nun and member of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, talked about “good jobs and strong communities.” She called Senate Bill 5 an “attack on democracy.”
Union Members Out in Force
Union member and former Desert Storm veteran Bill Fraley led the Pledge of Allegiance. A union member sang the national anthem. The crowd was full of union members wearing hats, shirts and jackets displaying their union affiliations. Signs and banners expressed pride at having a union connection and gave unions credit for making the American middle class. A Kentucky resident brought a message of solidarity from a Local AFL-CIO. They pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Ohio workers.
The 4:30 p.m. start time allowed teachers, fire fighters, police officers and other public employees to complete their workday and still arrive on time for the event. Unionized public employees will be affected by SB5’s elimination of collective bargaining provisions. A retired teacher called the bill “a step backwards.”
Local Politicians Support Unions
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory spoke in support of unions and talked about his recent appearance on “Undercover Boss.” The city jobs he performed — police ride alongs, filling potholes, working at a recreation center, issuing parking tickets — gave him a new appreciation for the middle class and union worker. His participation in the show reminded him that 6,000 Cincinnati city employees were committed to public service, to their jobs and to “making our lives better.” Mallory expressed a desire to “make sure we are doing everything we can to kill Senate Bill 5.” County Commissioner Todd Portune and city councilman Cecil Thomas also spoke out against Ohio SB5.
The bottom line of the rally was a call to action. The leaders asked for rally attendees to provide contact information for follow up. They need workers for a pending signature drive to defeat Ohio Senate Bill 5.
Senate Bil 5: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/BillText129/129_SB_5_PSC_N.html