Last week I had a friend ask me if I was ready for whatever changes would be thrown at us in 2012.  Such a question prompted me to think about the tumultuous year we have had in 2011.  Was I ready for everything that happened last year?  Were we ready for the all-out assault on public sector workers that was launched by Kasich and the Ohio GOP?  A year ago, I would have had no idea how to answer that question as the notion of such an attack on workers was completely foreign to me. But now?

A line from a book I’m reading captured the idea of what happened in 2011 for me:

“Sometimes . . . the only way you find out you’re ready is that when you have to be, you are.”

(The Paperboy, Pete Dexter)

As I reflect about this year’s events, it occurs to me that we the public sector workers, especially union members, did not know how drastically we would be challenged in 2011.  We did not know about the major rallies at the Statehouse or the smaller events we would be hosting in our local communities.  Most of us had never been involved in the collection of signatures for any type of political campaign.  Until 2011, we had never engaged in defending our daily work to strangers on the street, on their doorstep, or on the phone.  And while many of us financially supported our unions and local charities, rarely have we had to engage in any political fundraising.

And yet in 2011, we collected over 1.2 million signatures and $42 million in a collective effort to repeal one single piece of legislation.

Were we ready?

Unions across Ohio organized members using the communication networks that were already in place to share important details about the legislation. Thousands of people repeatedly converged from around Ohio at the Statehouse in unprecedented rallies demonstrating their fierce opposition to the GOP’s bill.  Teachers replicated the skills they use every day in their classrooms to articulate their positions as they collected signatures at fairs, parks, races, farmer’s markets, and even the Statehouse steps (and copied book after book of petition signatures in a hidden bunker).  Police officers and firefighters used their vastly undervalued communication skills as they spoke to members of their communities in an array of different settings.  And people like me, who didn’t even know where to park in downtown Columbus, suddenly found ourselves offering opponent testimony in front of the Senate and House committees who were holding hearings on Senate Bill 5.  I will never forget the shocked (and impressed) looks on the faces of the House committee members when a petite high school senior from Columbus lit up the hearing room on a cold, rainy evening with an educated, impassioned argument against SB5.  I still consider myself lucky to have heard her speak.  Her poise was impeccable and her performance still gives me chills to this day.  On that evening, she spoke of her goal of becoming a teacher.  For now, she is an aide in the office of one of those very committee members (a wise hire, in my opinion).

Were we ready?

Personally, I was an infrequent user of any social media, did not read blogs, and had never heard of Plunderbund.  In fact, (way back) on January 1, Plunderbund had 321 followers on Facebook.  I wasn’t one of them and most of you weren’t either.

As a result of top-notch writing about Kasich and Senate Bill 5, and through the sharing of this information via social media through the expanding network of public employees, including the newly formed networks across occupations (thank you, Mr. Kasich), Plunderbund has 4,800 Facebook followers and public sector unions are stronger than they have been in decades.  New friendships have been created within and among the various unions as the work we were engaged in brought us side-by-side.

I’m not being self-congratulatory in those statements – my first post on PB wasn’t until April 20.  By then, PB had already grown to 2,900 followers.  I became an avid reader before I was writing posts thanks to the recommendations of fellow teachers.

Were we ready?

I believe my personal turning point this year was March 2, the day I was at the Statehouse to witness the Senate pass SB5 on a 17-16 vote.  That evening, I posted my thoughts as a “note” on Facebook – mostly as a cathartic outlet for my emotions about “wrongness” of that day.  I was subsequently surprised later when people read and shared the post, especially when my brother, himself a firefighter, mentioned to me that other firefighters referenced it.  I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the significance of that moment.  Before SB5 had even passed its second phase in the House, the members of the public sector unions were effectively conveying meaningful information about our collective efforts through social media.

We all know that the story of 2011 ends with SB5 becoming Issue 2 and suffering a landslide defeat on election day thanks to the efforts of thousands of dedicated Ohioans who had no idea what they were capable of accomplishing until they were asked.  And on election night this year, I sat in the bleachers during the Ed Show with police officers, firefighters, fellow educators and other union employees from Ohio.  I witnessed Brian (Modern) sitting right next to State Senator Nina Turner on the set during the live broadcast as Ed covered Ohio politics that night.  And after State Representative Armond Budish revealed the results of the election, my fellow teachers and I celebrated with firefighters, police, countless other union members and full-time politicians and campaign workers.  This was our victory.

Were we ready for 2011?  Apparently we were.

Are we ready for 2012?  Keep reading.  We’ll find out soon enough.

 

 
  • Anonymous

    We were ready, and we are ready….thanks in substantial part to all of you great folks at Plunderbund! 

    The more they throw at us, the harder I will fight!

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be honest, after Kasich got elected, I was totally disheartened.  Then I stumbled upon Plunderbund.

    Plunderblund is now what I fire up every morning to see what is going on in Ohio politics.

    YES. I’m ready for 2012.

    PS. Steve LaTourette REALLY needs to get defeated this year

  • Beca117

    2011 was worse than I thought it would be, but we now know we can do what we need to do!  Thanks Greg for sharing your wisdom and insight!! 

  • Definitely a highlight of the year was you and Ben joining the crew.  Very solid stuff and a major contribution to our success in 2011.  More on this soon.

  • Rgtmwlly

    That story, you know the one about being all ready and stuff, is the story Ohio Republicans told in December of 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2010.

    Dusting it off for 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks.  I always appreciate your insight.

  • luv2teach

    I am with westparkguy 100%. I check in at Plunderbund daily and have really learned a lot. Being a teacher, my specialty is not politics, finance, law, etc. but I have gained a better understanding of how they all work in relation to my field. My colleagues ask ME what is the latest developments because my explanations sound coherent. And it is because of the excellent reporting from those at Plunderbund. I will continue to call, canvas, rally and do what is needed to work for justice and fairness for the middle class in this state.

  • Anonymous

    Have a “Happy New Year”, you little, old tea party gremlin, Rgtmwlly.  Expect a visit from three spirits beginning at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve.  2012 is the year that the Ohio tea baggers can kiss their butts good-bye.

  • Thanks for all the kind words!

  • Victoria_ullmann

    That is one of the great benefits of collective bargaining–when people are organized, they can respond so much better to a crisis because organization and solidarity are part of their worldview.

  • Anonymous

    Get ready for the election with proper information, check out this map: http://chadely.com/2012/ohio/congress/ohio-districts-2012.html

  • Anonymous

    Stay ready till Kasich is out of office.

  • Fotogirlcb2002

    Well according to the Chinese new year  calendar 2012 is the year of the dragon –I am a dragon !
    My hope is all of us that are dragons will breathe fire on these people until its to hot for them to stay around.
    We managed to get ready  for that fight this year — and we are gearing up for  2012 in full force. After the defeat of SB5 I feel new life has uplifted the “solidarity” movement.
    Keep the faith, be on watch, be pro-active.  
     

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