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Standing Up For Workers’ Rights in Ohio

UFT Legislative Representative Michael Davoli was in Ohio this weekend helping to get the word out to voters that a NO vote on ballot Issue 2 this Election Day is a vote to protect the collective bargaining rights of working Ohioans. He wrote about his experience.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, 6:11 p.m. Oh, what a day to be in Ohio. Today was an absolutely beautiful day to be knocking on doors for an incredibly important cause. The temperature reached into the low sixties, the sun was shining all day, the colors of the fall leaves were peaking and the people were friendly. After landing in Cincinnati late Friday afternoon we headed over to the Ohio AFL-CIO campaign headquarters for a campaign briefing with the AFT campaign staff. There we met up with some of our brothers and sisters from NYSUT locals across New York State who have been out in Ohio for a few days. After getting a late dinner at a classic Cincinnati rib joint it was time to hit the sack in preparation for a few big days of campaigning.

UFT Parent and Community Liaison Nick Cruz signs a "We Are Ohio" pledge at campaign headquarters.

Saturday morning started bright and earlier for the nine of us from New York. After grabbing a quick breakfast we headed over to the IBEW office where over one hundred labor volunteers from across the country were preparing to knock on doors. This was it. This was ground zero for the labor movement in Ohio and the nation. This was where union members — from teachers to police to firefighters and municipal employees — were going to make their stand against the forces of corporate America who were trying to break the backs of working people. We were here to help fight back.

We broke up into teams of two and headed out to neighborhoods across Cincinnati. UFT Parent and Community Liaison Betty Zohar and I teamed up and took a list of about 100 voters who we needed to track down and secure their votes. By 11 a.m. we were knocking on doors in a middle class neighborhood in Cincinnati. These were the voters who we need to reach if we were going to preserve the rights of Ohio’s working people to organize and collectively bargain.

After knocking on six doors without reaching anyone, we found our first voter. And it was a good thing we did. The son and brother of teachers, he knew there was a big ballot question up for a vote and knew how he felt about it, but he was not sure how the voting worked on a question like this. Betty quickly explained to him the importance of voting no on Issue 2 if he wanted to repeal the anti-union, anti-working people, pro-corporate Senate Bill 5 which was passed earlier this year. He was thrilled to meet us and could not thank us enough.

It was as simple as that. The right of workers to collectively bargain was under attack and we were there to educate Ohioans about which way to vote if they cared about working people.

UFT Parent and Community Liaison Betty Zohar knocks on a door in Cincinnati.

For the next several hours we knocked on over eighty doors and spoke to over three dozen people. We met a teacher who insisted on hugging Betty when he heard we had traveled from New York just to help the people of Ohio. We met a little girl with long pigtails who was incredibly proud to tell us that she would vote no if only she was old enough. She assured us that she would make sure her parents voted no. We met a mom of two teenage boys who was not sure about how she was going to vote but acknowledged that she was confused by all the TV ads and misleading information. She thanked us for giving her a straightforward answer and promised to consider our position. Personally, I think we got her!

It was a long, long day. But it was a great day. We New Yorkers tend to take for granted what we have at home. We often forget how many of our brothers and sisters from around the county simply do not have the right to collectively bargain and are left voiceless. This is why we are here. The good people of Ohio need our help. We are all family and we must stand up together. Just like the cries of “We Are the 99%” — today, WE ARE ALL OHIO.

On Sunday we’ll get out there and knock on some more doors. And on Monday and Tuesday we will continue the fight.

But for now, I’m thinking about finding some more BBQ ribs!

My walk lists were my neighborhood guide.

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