July 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Unions plan rally before governor’s State of the State address

Local and statewide union leaders plan to gather before Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address Monday in Medina to deliver what they call “the real state of the state.”

The rally is slated for 5 p.m. at the corner of East Union Street and Weymouth Road.

The rally is being organized by We Are Ohio, a coalition that worked to repeal Senate Bill 5 in 2011. S.B. 5 restricted state collective bargaining rights and was approved by state lawmakers and signed into law by Kasich.

A number of unions will be represented at the rally, and John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association will be a featured speaker.

“I’m honored to be speaking on behalf of all the teachers in Ohio,” Leatherman said. “We want to express our concern on how education funding has been passed out in Ohio.”

Leatherman said cuts to education funding during the last two budgets approved under Kasich’s administration have shifted tax burdens on to local residents.

“It’s put schools in a tough spot where we have to constantly go back to our citizens and say we need levy dollars,” he said.

Leatherman said his speech will focus on the teachers who have been let go over the last few years as a result of budget cuts and the students impacted by the cuts.

“It’s never been easy,” said Leatherman who added he has played a part in notifying teachers about cuts as president of the union. “I just think it’s interesting (Kasich) is giving the speech at a public school.”

But despite his objections to Kasich’s policies, Leatherman said he has accepted an invitation to attend the speech at 7 p.m. alongside interim Medina Superintendent Dave Knight.

“I’m going to attend because I respect his office,” Leatherman said. “I’d like to see the same respect for public education.”

At the rally Monday, three other speakers are scheduled to deliver an address, said Meredith Tucker, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio. She said in addition to voicing concerns about funding priorities, union groups also want to remind voters of Kasich’s support for Senate Bill 5 and educate voters on so-called “right to work” legislation.

Columbus lawmakers have discussed but later scrapped “right-to-work” proposals that would have made it illegal for workers to be required to join unions as a condition of employment and put an end to the practice of taking union dues directly out of paychecks.

“We will be talking about how Gov. Kasich’s policies have not helped working families,” Tucker said. “Right-to-work may be coming to Ohio and that’s a very big concern.”

Tucker said her organization expects a couple hundred people at the rally.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.