Poll shows 6 of 10 Ohio voters want repeal of anti-union law

Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:55pm EDT

A large group of union supporters gather on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse to rally against Senate Bill 5 in Columbus, Ohio, March 1, 2011.    REUTERS/Matt Sullivan

A large group of union supporters gather on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse to rally against Senate Bill 5 in Columbus, Ohio, March 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Matt Sullivan

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(Reuters) - Almost 6 out of 10 Ohio voters say they want to repeal a law that restricts collective bargaining by public sector unions, according to a poll released Tuesday which shows opposition has grown in the past month.

Ohio voters by 57 percent to 32 percent support the repeal of the law, which forbids government workers from going on strike, according to the poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University. In a late September Quinnipiac poll, the margin was 51 percent to 38 percent.

The bill was passed by the legislature this past spring, and was put on the November 8 ballot for a referendum vote and has not yet taken effect.

The poll also found that 52 percent of those surveyed disapproved of how Republican Gov. John Kasich is doing his job compared with 49 percent in September. The anti-union law is the centerpiece of Kasich' legislative program.

"With two weeks until Election Day, the opponents of SB 5 have strong reason to be optimistic," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, based in Hamden, Connecticut.

The poll found that nearly every demographic group favors repealing the law, including a majority of both men and women, whites and blacks, and union and non-union households. The poll also found 32 percent of Republicans favor repeal.

"Anything is possible in politics, but with such across-the-board support for repealing SB 5, the governor and his team can't be optimistic about the fate of their law," Brown said. The poll surveyed 1,668 registered voters.

At a weekend rally to get out the vote in a Cincinnati suburb, Kasich said the law will give local governments the tools they need to control costs. He said that some voters have misconceptions about what's in the bill.

"If they know what's in the bill, they'll vote for it," he said. "Most people who are against it really don't understand the consequences of a 'no' vote."

While Wisconsin's public sector union fight featured mass protests at the state capital and gained more national attention, Ohio is more important to unions.

Ohio has the sixth largest number of public sector union members among all U.S. states, twice the number of Wisconsin. Wisconsin's law restricting collective bargaining exempts police and firefighters, but Ohio's includes them.

Denise Driehaus, a Democratic state representative from Cincinnati, said firefighters and policemen who voted Republican are furious about the law.

"I think people understand this is an attack on the working class, the middle class," Driehaus said.

(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Greg McCune)

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