Teamsters president Jim Hoffa autographs a protest sign for local teamster Mark Wilson during a rally at Teamster Local 20 on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. Hoffa was on hand to speak against Issue 2.
A parade of politicians and union members and their leaders — including James Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — rallied a crowd at the Teamsters Local 20 hall Wednesday night to turn out big in opposition to Issue 2 in the Nov. 8 election.
Mr. Hoffa, who is in a race for re-election as Teamsters president, told members that Issue 2 is an attack on public-sector workers that will be followed by threats to private-sector unions.
"My friends here in Ohio told me what Governor Kasich said when he took over. I understand that he said, ‘get on the bus or I'm going to run you over.' Well, Governor Kasich, we've got a big truck out here and now we're going to run you over!" Mr. Hoffa told the crowd inside the hall on the Anthony Wayne Trail at Hawley Street.
The line brought big applause from the group of several hundred who packed the hall. A gleaming semi tractor-trailer emblazoned with the Teamsters logo was parked outside next to the building.
Mr. Hoffa did not repeat the words that got him national attention Sept. 5 at the Labor Day Rally in Detroit, where he said about Republicans and Tea Partiers, "let's take these son of a [expletive] out." But several other speakers alluded to it.
Bill Dudley, director of legislative affairs for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 75, said, "on Labor Day in Detroit, he sent a clear message to the right-wingers of this country — stick it where it don't shine."
Speakers included members of the Toledo and Cincinnati firefighter unions. Also well-represented, in addition to Local 20 members, were members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75 and the Toledo Federation of Teachers.
Mr. Dudley acknowledged that UFCW members were promised stipends of $40 to be at the rally. He said it's a policy going back to 1992 to encourage turnout among members who may incur costs by having to lose work, pay baby-sitters, or drive long distances to attend rallies.
State Rep. Matthew Szollosi (D., Oregon) gave a blistering address to the gathering, mentioning a prison guard who was severely beaten at the hands of an inmate, social workers who deal with traumatic abuse cases, and others who he said have tough jobs and should be treated as heroes.
"These are the people that are getting kicked in the teeth because, quote, we need to give our managers greater ability to control costs," Mr. Szollosi said. "To John Kasich, these people are nothing more than costs. You're a burden on society. Your rights, meaningless. Sit down, be quiet, and be thankful that you have a job. That's the mentality in Columbus, Ohio."
Mr. Hoffa recalled he had rallied in Columbus to try to stop the passage of Senate Bill 5. He said the Ohio vote is being watched nationwide, and that a defeat for Issue 2 will set back what he claimed is a national agenda to undermine unions.
"This is part of our movement to motivate people, to educate people, in regard to voting on this proposition," Mr. Hoffa said. "This is a basic right of workers. We realize this is just the beginning. If we win, it's going to send a message to these governors, these right-wingers … that rock them back to say we're not going to go down easy. We're going to fight every step of the way."
He said the campaigning and voting of union members would overwhelm the money that he said is being spent on advertising to support the law.
"Who do you think is financing those ads? The Tea Party," he said.
Passage of Issue 2 would uphold Senate Bill 5, which was passed in March by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Kasich. The law would partially roll back bargaining rights for public-sector unions to make strikes illegal and to mandate higher percentages of contributions by employees to health-care and pensions, among other things. It also would bar public-sector unions from bargaining over staffing levels, such as the 103 firefighters per shift required in Toledo.
Supporters say the existing collective-bargaining law is tilted in favor of unions and that local governments need more power in bargaining to make local tax revenue go further and to avoid layoffs.
"You're taking away my freedom of speech to bargain about staffing levels," Toledo firefighter/paramedic Daniel Martinez shouted to the crowd. "Mr. Governor, I have a message for you — don't tread on me."
Al Mixon of Cleveland, international vice president of the union, said he was disturbed to see the polling gap on Issue 2 narrowing.
"Somewhere along the line, we're not getting the message out," Mr. Mixon said, urging his listeners to campaign among family and friends to take advantage of early and mail-in voting.
Mr. Mixon said union members don't aspire to own a Learjet, but they do want to be able to buy a steak or take their family on a vacation "every now and then."
"We've got the ball on the goal line. What are we going to do to put this across the goal line?" Mr. Mixon said, as the crowd responded "Vote!"
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.