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Government and Politics

Ohio delegates mark Labor Day at DNC
Fear Republicans are out to rollback workers' rights and voting rights
This story is part of a special series.

Mark Urycki
Sand sculpture in downtown Charlotte does a little marketing to Democrats.
Courtesy of urycki
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The Ohio delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte marked Labor Day by hearing from a list of union leaders. The head of the Ohio AFL-CIO called the Democrats the party of labor. From Charlotte, WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports, they celebrated recent victories but worried about future attacks.

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Union membership is a shadow of what it once was but those members make up the foot soldiers of the Democratic party. And quite a few delegates. But they’re worried. The head of the Ohio AFL-CIO Tim Burga told delegates that conservatives have been launching attacks on worker’s rights with bills like Senate Bill 5, which would have restricted collective bargaining of teachers, firefighters, and other state workers

“Attacks on prevailing wage; attacks on overtime pay; stripping millions of dollars out of education and local government funds; and finally trying to take away workers’ rights to collectively bargain.”

The slogan of the day was “Forward, not Back.” It came from the head of the Democratic Governors Association, Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland. He said Republicans want to roll back basic rights.

“Rolling back even basic voting rights. We’ve seen it in Ohio; we’ve seen it in Florida; we’ve seen it in Virginia; we’ve seen it in Wisconsin. But we’ve also sen what happens when people come together as you did to defeat Senate Bill 5 and move your state in a better direction.”

Democrats celebrated a victory last week when a federal judge threw out a Republican bill that eliminated voting on the weekend before the election except for military personnel and Ohioans overseas. The head of the Ohio Education Association, Pat Frost Brooks, says 10 of her members were prompted to run for office because of conservative efforts to suppress voting.

“They are trying to discourage the poor, the elderly, Hispanics and African Americans from voting and we’re not going to let that happen. It is an outrage!”

Two people who were fired for trying to keep voting open the final weekend were Montgomery County Election Board members Tom Ritchie and Dennis Lieberman. Ohio delegates gave them a standing ovation. But Dennis Lieberman said he didn’t feel like a hero. He told a story of 2008 when he and other elections officials worked outside as some 7,000 people lined up to vote on the final weekend before the election. Some were college students who had come home to vote…

“One of them pulled out a guitar and started playing songs. And a Republican board member staning next to me turned to me with tears in his eyes and said ‘This is what America is all about.’  He’s right.” 

Several union officials asked the delegates to work as hard as they did to overthrow Senate Bill 5 in this coming election. The Democrats had a couple victories in the past year but they still don’t sound comfortable.

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