She isn’t eligible to vote for another seven years, but that didn’t deter Josie Coffee from going door-to-door on Kent’s west side Saturday with her firefighter father to drum up “no” votes for Ohio Issue 2.
Josie was one of a handful of people who participated in the Kent Fire Homecoming Canvass organized by We Are Ohio, “a citizen-driven, community-based, bipartisan coalition that has come together to stop SB 5 by voting NO on Issue 2,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
The 11-year-old volunteered to spend a couple cold, windy hours of her weekend canvassing neighborhoods with dad Jeff Coffee because she’s concerned about how Issue 2 would affect her family.
“I feel I should support him (her father) in what he believes in – and this (Issue 2) would really hurt his job and my mom’s job,” said Josie, whose mother, Julie, teaches fourth-grade in the Copley-Fairlawn City School District.
Jeff Coffee, who is also a paramedic, serves as vice president of the Kent Firefighters Association Local 721 of the International Association of Firefighters.
Coffee and fellow union members shared their stance on Issue 2 with signs and fliers in Kent State University’s Homecoming Parade, then gathered at Kent Fire Station One for canvassing instructions from Brad Cromes, Portage County field organizer for We Are Ohio.
The canvassing event – one of many planned in Kent through Election Day on Nov. 8 – also attracted two Kent State University professors and a retired elementary school teacher.
Six members of the Kent State College Democrats showed up for the training to prepare for their own upcoming canvassing events. President Bryan Staul said the organization “has made Issue 2 our main focus now through Nov. 8 … we’re going to be doing a whole week of phone calls and canvassing.”
Cromes told each participant it would be appropriate as they canvassed to share personal stories of how Issue 2, if approved, would impact their lives.
Repeat canvasser Polly Tucker of Kent has been sharing her teacher's perspective. The 40-year elementary school teacher retired in 2006 from the Cuyahoga Falls City School District, where she continues to work as a substitute teacher.
Tucker said she’s very concerned about how Issue 2 would affect student-teacher ratios in public schools.
“I taught before there was collective bargaining for teachers and there was no say in how many students were in a classroom,” she said. “My first year of teaching I had 36 first-graders who had never been to kindergarten.”
Coffee shares Tucker’s concern on behalf of his teacher-wife. Plus he’s worried about how Issue 2 could affect his family’s bottom dollar regarding healthcare costs, changes in fire department staffing levels and the related loss of contractual stipends.
“It’s not about being greedy,” Coffee said of his opposition to Issue 2. “SB 5 is an overall attack on the middle class that will have a negative impact on the local economy.”
Deb Smith, an associate professor of philosophy at Kent State, was canvassing Saturday on behalf of the Tenure-Track unit of the Kent State Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
“What bothers me is that this is a threat to the very existence of our union because SB 5 contains language … that declares faculty at universities as management, so we would be barred from collective bargaining,” Smith said.
Representing the Full-Time Non Tenure Track unit of AAUP-KSU on Saturday was its president, Tracy Laux, who teaches mathematics. The Kent resident is opposed to everything about Issue 2.
“I would like the state legislature to leave my firefighters, my police, my street and sewer workers and my daughter’s school teachers alone in regard to their rights as workers,” Laux said.
The fight over collective bargaining and other public union rights in Ohio is up for a vote during the general election Nov. 8.