Statement by William Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO President and Co-Chair of the Committee in Opposition to Issue 2
Columbus, OH (November 4, 1997) — Today we’ve made history. We’ve proven — that in Ohio — people can be more powerful than money. Today, tens of thousands of people — organized and unorganized — stood in the rain, snow, and cold, working hard to put Democracy in action. And – we – won.
Last spring, when the big corporations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Governor and the Legislature to pass S.B. 45, the worst anti-worker, anti-family bill in Ohio history — we took to the streets. And we collected 400,000 signatures to put S.B. 45 on the ballot for a vote of the people as Issue 2.
And when the big corporations spent millions of dollars on deceptive political ads to try to pass Issue 2, we took to the streets again. We put together a coalition of people that this state has not seen in 40 years — injured workers, Retirees, students, union members, farmers, firefighters, clergy, police officers, and, yes, attorneys, nurses, and stay-at- home moms — all working hard to defend their families and defeat Issue 2. Eventually, with hard work, we were able to get out the truth. The truth that the big corporations pushing Issue 2 didn’t care about people, they care about money. But the people of Ohio knew Issue 2 hurt workers and they said ‘No.’
This was a heated campaign. I want to thank the voters of Ohio once again for their patience in sticking with us through what was a trying campaign for everyone.
I’d also like to say something to our Governor. Governor Voinovich, you fought a good fight. You may have thought Issue 2 was good for workers. But Governor, the people have spoken, and I hope you’ve heard them. Governor, you’ve spent the better part of eight years telling working families that you’re on our side, but your actions don’t match your words. I ask you to take your remaining year in office to finally show us you’re willing to fight for Ohio’s working families rather than against us. We all want what is best for Ohio. You should stop taking the side of the big corporations against the working people of this state.
Now is a time for us to celebrate, but it’s also a time to reflect. We need to remember what this campaign was all about. We fought Issue 2 to protect the benefits of injured workers and to preserve workers’ compensation for the thousands of Ohioans who will get injured on the job in the future. Ohio workers are some of the hardest working and most productive people anywhere. We have made Ohio into one of the most dynamic economies in the world. Ohio workers earn their workers’ compensation every day, and by defeating Issue 2 it will be there when they need it.
Tonight is a great victory for Ohio workers. But we should take this opportunity to pledge to continue our fight, to insure that every Ohio worker can make a living wage and make for their family the same bright future our parents made for us.
I’d like to formally thank all the members of our coalition, all the individuals and groups who worked with us, in particular my leaders and members of organized labor — unfortunately too numerous to mention tonight. I’d like to thank the other officers of the Coalition Committee (Warren Davis, Steve Mindzak, and Esther Weissman). I’d also like to thank everyone here and at home who worked so hard to defeat Issue 2.
So in conclusion, on behalf of the Committee, on behalf of the Ohio AFL-CIO, and on behalf of the voters of the State of Ohio, I declare Issue 2 defeated and S.B. 45 rescinded. Thank you.