Drums and bagpipes echoed across the lawn of the Ohio Capitol as an estimated 5,200 individuals united in protest against Senate Bill 5 during a cold February afternoon. Crowds chanted, “Kill the bill,” while others held signs that read, “Protect workers’ rights” and “Kasich is the idiot.”
Prior to the passage of SB 5 in March, rallies such as this were common across the state. Record crowds stood in unison with a message: protect workers’ rights.
The new law limits collective bargaining rights for public employees, potentially affecting wages and benefits.
Called “a huge blow to the middle class” and “a politically motivated attack,” anti-SB 5 advocates garnered support through rallies.
One such rally took place at YSU on April 18.
“The Rally for Education and Community was a success because we brought several hundred people together to talk not only about the repercussions of SB 5 and how they would affect everyone in the state,” said Gary Davenport, then vice president for university affairs of the Student Government Association at YSU. Davenport helped organize the rally.
Why so much interest in this bill than other current controversial issues?
“[It has a] big impact on [the] lives of public employees,” said William Binning, professor and chair emeritus of the political science department at YSU. “It impacts [their] livelihood and rights.”
“I think it’s a geography and timing issue here,” Davenport said. “There are always issues that need to be addressed, but in Ohio, we have to take care of SB 5 immediately.”
During an anti-SB 5 rally in Columbus, large crowds prompted state troopers to lock Capitol building doors, a move that infuriated protesters.
“This is tyranny!” a protester wrote on Twitter.
“This is the people’s house!” another user noted.
SB 5 supporters are in the minority. Tea Party members organized pro-SB 5 rallies, but none enjoyed the success of their counterparts.
“I just don’t see or hear anyone talking about it positively,” Davenport said. “SB 5 doesn’t create jobs, will decrease the quality and security of existing jobs, will
deplete the applicant pool to those jobs and may actually work to
eliminate jobs. Who wants any of that?”
With the 90-day referendum going into effect, anti-SB 5 advocates will look to gain signatures and support. Rallies could continue, but they could turn into something different.
“[F]rom now on you’ll see local-scale events to get signatures as well as individuals approaching one another about it in neighborhoods and public venues,” Davenport said. “I’m not sure if there will be protests like there has been in recent months, but you can be sure if there’s a reason to say something publicly while they’re collecting signatures, people will organize.”