On April 21 students and workers held a rally outside the office of OSU president Michael Drake to demand an end to the university's efforts to privatize its workforce and energy system.

On April 21 students and workers held a rally outside the office of OSU president Michael Drake to demand an end to the university's efforts to privatize its workforce and energy system.

Since the April 6 occupation of Bricker Hall, a coalition of student groups has kept up the pressure on the university to end its plans to privatize its energy services and outsource more of its employees.

On April 21 the #ReclaimOSU coalition joined forces with members of Communication Workers of America (CWA), the labor union that represents many OSU workers as well as Verzion employees who are on strike. They gathered at the South Oval and marched to the Ohio Union, shouting, “Hey Drake, step off it! Put people over profit!”

 “When the university sells out energy, that is a direct attack on minority and other workers at Ohio State,” said Maryam Abidi of the OSU Coalition for Black Liberation during a speak-out in the atrium of the Ohio Union. “Privatization is also an attack on the minority communities of Columbus,” she said.

From the Ohio Union the marchers proceeded to President Drake’s office in Bricker Hall. This time they were locked out and a police guard was in place, so they held a rally on the steps of Bricker Hall and tied balloons to the doors with messages opposing the Comprehensive Energy Management plan.

 “Like corporations, universities are looking for a transient work force,” said CWA Local 4501 President Kevin Kee. “Because if you work here for 30 years as a custodian, you’d be making about $15.35 an hour. That’s too much. If they work you for two or three years and then replace you, they only have to pay $8.25.”

OSU is the largest employer in central Ohio, with over 38,000 employees, Kee said. “If they are allowed to destroy the permanent work force, no money will be going into the public employee retirement system. If the retirement system dries up, promises made for people’s retirement become null and void. All of these things are put in jeopardy when you privatize the McCracken Power Plant, the dining facilities, and janitorial staff.

“We cannot allow the voice of labor to be silenced,” Kee said. “We cannot allow privatization to destroy our way of life.”

Pranav Jani, a professor in OSU’s department of English, took the opportunity for a “teachable moment” about neoliberalism. “It has three parts,” he said. “Deregulation is changing the laws and letting private corporations come in and do their thing. Austerity means talking social systems that people depend on and getting rid of them. Privatization means taking everything that’s a public good, and making it into a profit-making machine.

“They’re calling this a comprehensive energy management plan,” Jani said. “What we need to have is a comprehensive resistance!”

 “There needs to be accountability for how a private corporation is going to make a profit,” said Jed DeBruin of United Students Against Sweatshops. “OSU is a land grant institution. It is obligated to remain committed to the community. This means keeping unionized workers unionized, with the same pay and benefits, and the same jobs they were hired for in the first place.

 “Remaining committed to the community means remaining committed to education, not corporatizing at every opportunity. Insisting that we have to privatize in order to keep a freeze on tuition unfairly pits workers against students. This is unacceptable.

“Privatization does not stop with one asset,” DeBruin said.  “It may be energy today, dining and housing tomorrow. Privatization leads to exclusive rights for the few, and the disenfranchisement of the many.”  

The university administration’s lack of transparency with its Comprehensive Energy Management project is part of an ongoing pattern of shutting out the voices of people who are affected by its policies: students, OSU employees, and the broader Columbus community.

Real Food OSU has spent two years working to change the campus food system and institutionalize student leadership and community voices in university processes,” said Graham Spangler. “We have been through every piece of OSU’s idea of student engagement. We’ve had countless meetings with OSU administration. We have a resolution through the undergrad student government recommending that President Drake sign on to the Real Food Campus Commitment, and still we are shut out. We are denied.”