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Faculty Activism Alive and Well in Ohio

By Gwendolyn Bradley

Faced with some of the most drastic antiunion legislation in the country, faculty in Ohio joined forces this spring with other workers and unions in a coalition, We Are Ohio, determined to win back workers’ rights in the state. The coalition led a successful effort to place the legislation, known as S.B. 5, on November’s ballot for a referendum.

The Ohio conference of the AAUP collected more than ten thousand signatures, a significant accomplishment for a conference that is about four thousand strong. Twelve hundred signatures were collected in a single event at the University of Akron. The coalition turned in nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio secretary of state on June 29—about five times the total needed to place the referendum on the ballot. The record number of signatures shows that the opposition to the union-busting S.B. 5 is both broad and deep. In fact, We Are Ohio collected signatures from at least 6 percent of voters in every one of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties.

“We hope that S.B. 5 will be repealed in November to prevent it from harming the economy and people of Ohio,” says John Cupoletti, president of the AAUP’s Ohio conference. “Ohio’s firefighters, police officers, teachers, and college professors are publicly asking, ‘When did we become the enemy?’” David Witt, past president of the conference, adds, “Ohio voters know they aren’t.”

The next task: getting the word out about the referendum vote in November. The Ohio legislation, which strips all public-sector workers of significant union rights and singles out faculty members, could be a harbinger of things to come in other states. Antiworker groups are pouring millions of dollars into this fight, and We Are Ohio is asking for donations to help counter the advertising and visibility that those dollars will buy. Because of the significance of the Ohio legislation and the danger that a defeat there will lead to more antiunion legislation in other states, the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress has contributed $200,000 from its emergency fund to support the fight. At the Summer Institute, AAUP staff members passed the hat and collected an additional $2,600. If you can make a contribution, please make out a check to “We Are Ohio” and send it to the Ohio Conference AAUP at 137 East State Street, Columbus, OH 43215.

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