December 22, 2014

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Union members, Democrats rally at Labor Day festival

Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald speaks to residents of Lorain County the 20th annual Lorain County AFL-CIO Labor Day Festival at Black River Landing in Lorain Sunday. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald speaks to residents of Lorain County the 20th annual Lorain County AFL-CIO Labor Day Festival at Black River Landing in Lorain Sunday. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — “We’ll remember in November” was the theme of Sunday’s 20th annual Lorain County Organized Labor Day Family Celebration.

Several elected Democrats and Democratic candidates urged voters to hold candidates accountable in the November election.

They said Democrats better represent the values of working people and union members than Republicans.

State Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, said Ohio is likely to become a “right-to-work” state like neighboring Indiana and Michigan if Republican Gov. John Kasich is re-elected. In “right-to-work” states, union dues aren’t automatically removed from paychecks at unionized businesses.

By receiving the benefits of union workers without having to pay dues, union leaders say workers have little incentive to pay dues, greatly diminishing union ranks and worker power. Last year, just 11.3 percent of American workers — 35.3 percent public, 6.7 percent private sector — were unionized, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percentage was the lowest since 1916.

To overturn Republican majorities in the State Senate and House of Representatives, Ramos said Democrats need a big turnout in November and voters need to closely scrutinize candidates’ records.

“We also need to ask, ‘Who are your allies? Who’s putting you up to run?’” he said. “Is it working people or out of state interests?”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald reminded the crowd that Kasich supported Senate Bill 5, the law struck down by voters in 2011 that stripped public union members of most of their bargaining rights. He said Kasich represents corporations and the ruling class.

“We work for the average middle-class, working-class person in the state,” he said. “That’s who we believe in. That’s who we’re going to fight for.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, said Republicans have become far more extreme than when he took office as a congressman in 1993 and senator in 2007. Brown said that includes Republicans at the local level.

“You’re getting Republicans that have supported Mitt Romney, that are supporting John Kasich, that are supporting anti-labor, anti-women’s health, anti-voting rights agenda that national Republicans have,” Brown said as Republican Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams stood on stage, shaking his head in disagreement. “Let them criticize those right-wing members that have been bought off by the Koch brothers and bought off by the (anti) labor movement.”

Williams, who didn’t speak, said after the event that he confronted Brown after his speech and Brown didn’t know who he was.

Williams, who is being challenged by state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said he supports workers and unions.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.