My toes are cold. It's 27 degrees outside and the ground is covered with snow and ice. I stood in it for an hour and the moisture crept through my winter boots, slowly up my brown corduroy pants.
I was far from alone though, surrounded by firefighters, police officers, teachers, machinists, construction workers, corrections officers, pipefitters.
Bagpipes and drums from police and fire stations led the rally in front of the Ohio Statehouse. The firefighters wore their helmets; some police officers had on dress uniforms. I have to admit to a tiny frisson of "this is a moment" when I saw that first firefighter in his helmet. These are the people from our neighborhoods fighting for their rights.
A scary Batman looking SWAT truck stood at the ready across the street.
In Ohio, like in Wisconsin, the governor has proposed cuts to public workers' salaries and benefits. Public workers know about the state budget deficit and they have agreed to the cuts. They won't agree to give up their Collective Bargaining rights.
Collective bargaining means all of the workers band together in a union and negotiate for pay and benefits. This is what led to little things like the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, weekends, safer working conditions so people don't lose limbs.
Doesn't it seem like it would cost more time and money to bargain with each employee individually than to do it all as one union? But our new governor, John Kasich, has determined that collective bargaining must go. Maybe he doesn't plan to bargain with anyone, just lay down edicts.
The protestors carried signs. Oh, the signs. Some were over the top, like the one that called Kasich a fascist. And, of course, Hitler and concentration camps were also mentioned. Although the Hitler one was based in fact. "Hitler abolished unions in 1933." Apparently, according to my husband the history buff, that's true, but Hitler abolished a lot of things in 1933.
Kasich worked for Lehman Brothers on Wall Street. I don't think he ever had to rely on collective bargaining. That was another sign: "the rich don't need collective bargaining but 98% of Americans do."
I went to the rally alone so I wandered amongst the crowd and snapped some photos. I chanted along "Kill the Bill."
Everyone looked a little sheepish. We weren't really certain how to protest. Some college students had obviously been working on it. They had some good call and responses chants:
"Tell me what democracy looks like."
"This is what democracy looks like."
Another slogan we chanted: "O-H-I-O state bill 5 has got to go!"
No one was really in charge though. A couple of guys had bullhorns. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich moved through the crowd shaking hands. News trucks lined the streets.
The bagpipers began playing "God Bless America" and we all sang along, mumbling those words in the middle "from the hmmm,hmmm, to the prairies, to the oceans, capped with snow?"
"God Bless America, my home sweet home."
Someone held up a sign about growing hemp. Can we ever be on the same topic for a few minutes?
When the chants began again: "This is our house; let us in." I moved away from the crowd and drove home.
I'm a teacher; my rights are represented by a union, and I have papers to grade.
I couldn't find what I was looking for anywhere: a petition to recall our new governor. I wanted to sign it.
One thing that impresses me about the new governor: that he has managed to rile up this many people in such a short time.
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