Ohio public employees protest proposed union curbs

COLUMBUS, Ohio Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:33pm EST

1 of 4. Union supporters (L-R) Nora Suder-Riley, Tiffany James and Merrin Richardson chant loudly during a rally opposing Senate Bill 5 that would weaken unions at the state capital in Columbus, Ohio, February 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Munden

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Thousands of people picketed the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest a bill to cut collective bargaining rights for state workers.

In a local repeat of an issue that has roiled Wisconsin over the last two weeks, state Republican leaders say the bill is necessary to address the state's budget problems, while union leaders say it is designed to hurt unions.

"The intent is to give taxpayers a seat at the negotiating table," said Jason Mauk, spokesman for Ohio Senate Republicans.

Introduced in late January, the bill was scheduled for a state Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Ohio's bill goes farther than Wisconsin's in some ways, Mauk said. While Wisconsin's bill allows collective bargaining on wages, up to the rate of inflation, for state workers, the Ohio bill prohibits collective bargaining for 42,000 state workers in addition to 19,500 workers in the state's university and college system.

This would end a right established in 1983 for Ohio's public-sector workers.

For local governments that bargain with unions representing some 300,000 workers including police, firefighters, and public school teachers, the bill removes health care and some other benefits from the negotiating process.

Like Wisconsin, Ohio has a new Republican governor and Republican majorities in both legislative houses.

"What's happening in Ohio is similar to what's happening in Wisconsin," said Joseph Slater, professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law.

Slater said there is no correlation between whether a state gives collective bargaining rights to workers and whether they have a deficit.

"I don't think you have to be terribly cynical to think there's a partisan thing going on," Slater said. "Unions, public-sector unions especially, support Democrats with money and foot soldiers more often than they do Republicans."

(Reporting by Andrew Stern and Jim Leckrone; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Peter Bohan and Jan Paschal)

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Comments (8)
Ready2go wrote:
Here go the Repubs. Hypocritical as they come. Ever seen 1 of these Compassionate thieves talk about leading by example and cutting his own government salary and benefits. The Unions have already said they would. I sure hope the people are smarter than to buy into this. I live in Virginia and this red state is too cowardly to join in a union but love the benefits won by them. I hear all the time how JEALOUS they are that union people have health insurance. Join a union and fight to keep it and maybe you can!

Feb 22, 2011 6:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
whitehaint wrote:
Yes you can be union and have perhaps better pay, but that would mean it costs the employer more. Stop crying about the unions that destroyed our auto industry and the govt being tired of their crud. Goodbye unions.

Feb 22, 2011 6:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
rachl5 wrote:
I am not a part of a union…nor am i “jealous” (ready2go). On the other hand, my husband is a union member working for three different fire deparments, PART TIME, as a fire fighter-paramedic. a.k.a. NO BENEFITS!!! He truly LOVES helping people and is very good at what h does! Although he is qualified for a full time position most townships are cutting costs… that means that my husband’s odds of a full time position with benefits may not happen so soon…That’s ok though. We both work our tails off to make sure that we can provide for each other and our family. This is a crazy time! The fact of the matter is, unfortunately,… senate bill 5…most likely won’t matter! The outrageous government spending that goes unaccounted for… YES “Here we go Democs! Hypocritical as they come,” has set us up for failure! Only the ignorant and uninformed think that this is democrat/republican matter! This is socialism at its finest.

Feb 22, 2011 7:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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