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CSU joins protest against Senate Bill 5

Future graduates will feel the impact of this bill


March 3, 2011

Amid looming cutbacks and possible restructuring, protests of Senate Bill 5 continued across the country, with Tuesday’s demonstration in Columbus adding more fuel to discussion of the hotly debated legislation.

VachaProtesters in Wisconsin have rallied for more than two weeks, bolstered by hundreds of University of Wisconsin students, while similar protests occurred in Columbus during each hearing of the controversial bill. In Cleveland, dozens of protesters gathered in Public Square Thursday to voice their support for collective bargaining practices, and displeasure with Senate Bill 5.

The current version of the bill, as championed by Governor John Kasich, would restrict collective bargaining by the state's public employees, making it only applicable to negotiations regarding wages, and placing an effective ban on strikes.

According to F. Jeff Karem, president of the Cleveland State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, this could also cost faculty rights to their intellectual property, impinge upon academic freedom, and interfere with due process for grievances.

The bill was voted on this past Tuesday; as of press time, results had not come in. About 50 people joined in the protest downtown, which began at noon and lasted roughly three hours, carrying signs and punctuating the crisp February air with chants of “Kill the Bill!”

Organized by Cleveland State University student, Mark Szabo, the protest attracted a variety of participants, including students, union officials, retirees, and two local legislators; State Sen. Mike Skindell and State Rep. Kenny Yuko.

“This bill affects every CSU student, whether or not they're aware of it,” said Szabo, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering. “It's your rights at stake, and it's important to get involved.” Confident that the bill would adversely affect not only university faculty, but the job market as a whole, Szabo stressed the importance of retaining collective bargaining rights.

Szabo“Even after graduating, if you're only making $30,000 a year with your degree, that's not sustainable, there are loans, cost of living... this bill affects our futures,” Disappointed in the modest turnout, Szabo added “I think that's worth skipping class for.”

A recent New York Times poll echoes this sentiment: 60 percent of Americans surveyed oppose revoking collective bargaining rights as constituted. A full 38 percent of the bipartisan survey said they “strongly oppose” changes of any sort.

Retired teamster Rick Vacha couldn't agree more. “I retired at 49 years old. That's what you get in collective bargaining: quality of life. It's not just about wages. It's about quality of life.” Vacha, 58, who introduced President Obama at a town hall meeting back in 2009, feels that the bill is an attack not only on unions, but the middle class in general. “You take (collective bargaining) away, and it'll knock this country back to the 1930's.”