The conservative policy group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, is holding its convention in Columbus this weekend.
And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the event was welcomed with a protest by union groups.
More than 3000 union workers – teachers, nurses, skilled trades workers from all over Ohio and even some from outside the Buckeye State rallied in a park a few blocks away from Columbus Convention Center where some of the top Republican candidates were set to speak at the conservative event. One of the two Democrats running for U.S. Senate, Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, didn’t speak at the podium but he did take a few minutes to tell reporters why he was there.
“Ohio is not for sale to the billionaire class,” Strickland said.
The other Democrat running for U.S. Senate, P.G. Sittenfeld was not there but his spokesman, Dale Butland, said he couldn’t be there due to another long standing engagement.
“He was certainly there in spirit,” Butland said.
The union crowd marched toward the Convention Center, carrying signs decrying right to work legislation, a proposal that Americans for Prosperity has supported that would not require workers to be part of a union. That idea has been floated in Ohio but has never gathered enough support to be seriously considered. Still, AFL-CIO President Tim Burga threw red meat to the crowd that was hungry to send a strong message to the conservatives.
“Their plan is more tax breaks for the rich (crowd yells no), golden parachutes for Wall Street (crowd yells no), offshoring of our jobs (crowd yells no). They want to take away collective bargaining, they want to take away prevailing wage, they don’t want us to have a defined retirement benefit and no empathy for others. Does this sound like the American dream to you? (crowd chants no).”
(fade up cheering, whistles)
The parade of protestors temporarily forced closure of the street where the convention center is located. The group, including a giant puppet of GOP candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stood and chanted outside the convention center, with some peering in through the glass doors at the conservatives gathered inside. After about an hour or so of chanting, the crowd dispersed.