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Teachers gather to protect voices

About 30 people congregated yesterday in front of the Athens County Courthouse to oppose Ohio Senate Bill Five, which would eliminate collective bargaining rights for all state workers.

Teachers from around Southeastern Ohio showed up for the protest, holding signs by the road that read, "Students lose, we all lose. We will lose our homes, we don't eat out - you lose! We don't buy extras - you lose!"

Not only would the bill eliminate collective bargaining rights, it would also change teachers' annual salary schedules to merit-based pay systems.

This month, Gov. John Kasich said that collective bargaining changes would give power back to managers to keep costs low in light of the recent budget concerns, according to The Associated Press.

One teacher from Morgan County, Matt Conrad, who has taught English at Morgan High School for 13 years is also the president of his local teacher's union.

Conrad said the loss of collective bargaining rights for public employees would take away their ability to negotiate proper resources, facilities and working conditions.

"This is not only an attack on all public employees to collectively bargain, but it's also a matter of what this bill will do to students and their education," Conrad said.

Another teacher in attendance, Jim Miller, is retired but was a special education teacher at Morgan High School for 35 years.

Miller was a teacher before collective bargaining rights were given to public employees in 1984 and said the teaching experience was not the best during that time.

"We were at the mercy of the administrators," Miller said. "If they wanted to move you or found you too expensive to keep on staff, they could do so without negotiation."

Many in attendance voiced their concern that the loss of collective bargaining rights would ultimately affect the local economies.

Amy Douglas, an Athens High School art teacher of 14 years, said that if the bill passed it would break down the communication between employees and administrators.

"Progress won't be able to happen with the loss of our collective voice," Douglas said, adding that, "Collective bargaining allows a group of people to bring solutions that are better for everyone."

Douglas said she worries about the problems losing collective bargaining would cause.

"I don't think taking away these rights will save any money, it will just cause more problems," Douglas said.

As cars drove by the courthouse honking, the assembly of teachers fighting for their united cause consistently grew.

"We are speaking on behalf of the students and ourselves," Conrad said. "If we lose our voice, then we lose our voice for the students as well."

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