SB5 opposition begins election fight

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A statewide group focusing on the repeal of Senate Bill 5 has opened a branch office at the former Democratic party headquarters on Fourth Street across from the courthouse.

“We Are Ohio” has set up phone banks at the location where it is in operation throughout the week. Then on weekends it is the starting point for weekend canvases across the county.

“It is a citizens’ bipartisan coalition with all types of groups and individuals backing it and all concerned about Senate Bill 5,” according to Justin Miller, field organizer for Lawrence, Adams and Scioto counties. “We are really excited about getting to the next phase.”

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On March 31, Gov. John Kasick signed into law the bill that limits the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 Ohio public employees. It stops unions from negotiating wages, instituting automatic raises and calling strikes. The law affects teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, corrections officers and other government workers.

However, almost immediately after its passage a massive statewide petition drive began to put the issue on the ballot for repeal. Just under a quarter-million names were needed. The campaign brought in close to 1.3 million names.

Right now the goal of the group seeking the law’s repeal is to inform voters about how those against the SB5 should vote.

“It is Issue 2 (on the ballot) and a ‘no’ vote,” Miller said. “They think ‘I want to repeal it, I should vote yes.’ But you really want to vote ‘no.’ And they are looking for (Issue) 5. On the ballot that vote in November is Issue 2.”

Miller, who comes to Ohio from Madison, Wis., was part of the massive rallies and takeover of the capitol building in that state in a highly publicized fight over collective bargaining.

“I lived in the capitol and was organizing testimony hearing,” he said.

After that winter protest, Miller expanded his sights.

“I said ‘Get me down to Ohio. This is the next front line,’” he said.

The headquarters unofficially opened about a week ago with volunteers manning a makeshift phone bank because the utilities hadn’t been turned on yet.

“We were bootstrapping,” he said. “We set a table across the front door and ran the phone back out of a nearby diner because we didn’t have power.”

So far Miller said the organization has received positive reaction from its work.

“It has been neat to see the response of the community,” he said. “So many were involved heavily with the signature process.”