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Working Ohioans tell Portman: #TheseCutsHurt

On May 30, 40 volunteers from Working America and Faith in Public Life gathered outside Sen. Rob Portman’s Columbus office. Their aim was to protect Ohioans against the unfair cuts proposed in the draft federal budget. Their message was clear — #TheseCutsHurt.

The event was an important moment for the Columbus-based Working America team, but the work that brought these people together started many months ago.

In the months after the 2016 elections, many central Ohioans were concerned about the power and wealth that newly elected President Donald Trump was handing to big corporations and the threats to our health care.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike worried about the changes to Ohio’s economy that they had seen in recent decades. They wanted to see it re-balanced to give working people a fair deal. They wanted people in power to listen to their voices.

Our Columbus team put out the call and our members answered. We organized a program of trainings, meetings and social events, from regular “Make Your Mark Monday” activism sessions to church meetings and a women’s coffee group.

What started out as a survey and phone conversations has now blossomed into a group of more than 50 members organized into different action teams.

The event at Sen. Portman’s office was the largest we’ve held yet. It needed to be because the issue is a serious one.

Last year, instead of focusing on our priorities, Portman voted for a corporate-backed federal law that gives massive tax breaks to millionaires and wealthy corporations. Once those cuts in our national income had been signed into law, the Republican leadership and President Trump began work on drastic cuts to vital public programs like Medicaid, Medicare, public education and safety-net programs that protect Ohioans who need them the most.

After weeks of organizing, collecting 5,000 petition signatures and talking with our friends and neighbors, the team made a noise at the senator’s office. And as they spoke with his staff, another 70 Working America members called his switchboard to make their voices heard.

Mary, a member of the Columbus-based group of Working America volunteers, collected signatures and spread the word among her friends. She said at the event: “This government passed a huge tax benefit bill for very rich people. And now they want to pay for it by cutting essential benefits for the rest of us. They have gotten away with it because we haven’t been as active as we need to be. But now we are active and we will not stop.”

Rev. Dan Clark, Ohio Director for Faith in Public Life, speaking outside the office

Rev. Dan Clark, Ohio Director for Faith in Public Life, spoke about how his Church, St. John’s United Church of Christ in downtown Columbus, provides for the basic food needs for around 150 people a day. He said:

“The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, ‘Woe to you who make unjust laws.’

The mark of whether a law is just or unjust is how that law impacts the lives of vulnerable, marginalized folks, of sick people, of old people and of children. So I would say: ‘Woe to you, Sen. Portman, for supporting tax cuts that so horrifically impact the folks among us who need support, who need care, who need compassion.’”

The event was a success, bringing people and organizations together to speak out in a way they never would have dreamed of doing just a year ago. They got a taste of the power that working people have only when they act and fight together. What’s next for the group? They plan to keep up their momentum as they hit their neighbors’ doors to talk about how regular people will hold the power as the 2018 elections approach.

Working people in Columbus are on the march for good jobs, good health care and properly funded public schools. And they won’t stop until they get it.

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