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In Ohio, the Next Chapter in a Fight for Workers

by Cynthia McCabe  |  October 15, 2012

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders tells GOTV volunteers about the plight of Bain Capital-owned Sensata in Freeport, Ill. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Illinois is not a battleground state. It is projected to be firmly in the blue when they tally the votes for president three weeks from now. But that didn’t stop a group of AFSCME members gathered here in the Buckeye State Saturday morning from worrying about Illinois.

Because in Freeport, Ill., 170 workers are about to lose their jobs at a Bain Capital-owned company named Sensata. Bain is shipping their jobs to China, but not before requiring the American workers to train their Chinese replacements.

AFSCME VotesVolunteers gathered at the Ohio get-out-the-vote event this weekend gasped when Pres. Lee Saunders relayed the Sensata story. Ohio union members understand the gut-punch that comes from seeing American jobs – their sisters and brothers’ jobs – outsourced or privatized. It’s a reality of life in any Rust Belt state, but it’s not one these volunteers are willing to see made worse in their state, Illinois, or anywhere else, by the election of Mitt Romney and likeminded politicians.

So on Saturday they mobilized, knocking on doors across Columbus to urge people to vote for Pres. Barack Obama, Sen. Sherrod Brown and to vote yes on Issue 2, a measure that will ensure Congressional district lines are drawn fairly, by a bipartisan committee.  They are aware that once again, the eyes of the nation will turn to Ohio in these final weeks of the election.

“This is about the middle class and the assault these politicians have made on us,” Shirley Hubbert, a member of Local 11 (OCSEA), said. “It’s about fairness and giving everyone the opportunity to have people behind them.”

In 2008, a massive volunteer mobilization in Ohio helped President Obama defeat Sen. John McCain 51-47 percent. The New York Times would later report that twice as many Ohioans said they were contacted by a volunteer on behalf of Obama than a GOP volunteer during the run-up to Election Day.

Shirley Hubbert
OCSEA member Shirley Hubbert says the 2012 election is about the middle class. (Photo by Tessa Berg)

This year, the stakes will be even higher than 2008, said AFSCME Council 8 Pres. John Lyall. But the election follows a protracted battle against Senate Bill 5 in the state the year before, when voters shot down by a 2-1 margin Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cripple collective bargaining. Members of Council 8, OAPSE and OCSEA joined in coalition with We Are Ohio to defeat SB5.

“We knew whatever happened with Senate Bill 5 was going to reverberate across the country,” Lyall said, adding that the same volunteers who pulled out that victory for working people had to quickly turn their attention to the presidential and Congressional races. Lyall reminds them what’s at risk if they aren’t active in these final three weeks of the campaign: America’s economic recovery, Medicare, Social Security, affordable health care, workers’ rights. “I tell them what (Iowa Sen.) Tom Harkin says: We always say this is the most important election of our lifetime, but this is the scariest election of our lifetime.”

Earlier in the week, AFSCME members gathered in Cleveland heard a similar message of urgency from OAPSE Exec. Dir. Joe Rugola.

“I’m trying to make sure our members connect what happened with SB5 to the choices we face this year,” Rugola said. “Our opponents want people to be tired of the message we’re delivering. They want us to spend our money. There’s only one way we’re going to overcome them: with hard work and staying at it.”

For Saunders, an Ohio native, there’s no way around the work that faces AFSCME’s ground troops in the next three weeks in his home state.

“The weight of the world is on your shoulders,” Saunders told the volunteers in Columbus. “But the weight of the world is always on your shoulders. I’m going to be here for the end. I’m going to be here for our victory.”

Are you all in? Whether you’re in Ohio or any other state, your participation is crucial as the campaign enters the home stretch. Visit AFSCME.org to find out how you can get involved.

GOTV volunteers
Volunteers sign up to help get out the vote for Pres. Barack Obama, Sen. Sherrod Brown and in support of Ohio Issue 2. (Photo by Tessa Berg)
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