* Ohio Senate passes collective bargaining restrictions
* Measure still must pass Ohio House of Representatives
* Wisconsin Republicans fine missing Democrats $100 a day
(Recasts with Ohio vote; changes dateline from Madison)
By Mary Wisniewski
COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 2 Ohio joined Wisconsin
on Wednesday in advancing a plan to restrict public sector
unions, posing a new threat to U.S. labor union power in one of
the most politically and economically important states.
The Republican-controlled Ohio state senate approved a
proposal to curb the collective bargaining rights of public
employees and forbid government workers from going on strike.
The vote followed the Wisconsin Assembly's approval last
week of a similar proposal, which has sparked mass protests and
a national debate over labor relations.
In both states, the plans still must be passed by a second
chamber of the legislature and signed by the states' governors.
Republicans, who have been pushing the anti-union proposals,
hold the governorships and legislative majorities in both
Wisconsin and Ohio.
If enacted, Ohio would become the biggest U.S. state so far
to impose sweeping restrictions on public sector unions.
What began three weeks ago as a dispute between Wisconsin's
newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker and state unions
has blown up into possibly the biggest challenge to the labor
movement since President Ronald Reagan fired striking air
traffic controllers in 1981.
Republicans say the moves are needed to rescue
recession-battered state budgets from debt, but Democrats and
union supporters say the proposals are an attack on organized
labor that could linger into the 2012 elections.
While Wisconsin has gained more national attention, Ohio is
far more important to the union movement. It has the sixth
largest number of public sector union members among all U.S.
states, twice the number of Wisconsin.
The Ohio proposal was narrowly approved on a Senate vote of
17 to 16, with six majority Republicans joining Democrats to
vote against it.
'SHAME ON YOU'
After the vote, workers listening to the proceedings
outside the Ohio Senate chambers shouted "Shame on you" and
"We'll remember this."
Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich hailed the Senate vote
and said it would help local governments get the economy back
on track. "This is a major step forward in correcting the
imbalance between taxpayers and the government unions that work
for them," Kasich said.
More than 8,000 protesters converged on Ohio's capital on
Tuesday to demonstrate against the proposal, which would affect
workers including public school teachers, firefighters and
In Wisconsin, the curbs on public unions that passed the
Assembly last week exempted police and firefighters.
At a news conference in Columbus with Ohio Democrats,
representatives of fire and police unions complained the Ohio
bill would take away their ability to bargain for safety
equipment, such as bullet-proof vests.
"This bill provides for our safety to be contracted out to
the lowest bidder," said Jay McDonald of the Ohio Fraternal
Order of Police.
The Ohio house will debate the bill next week.
The Wisconsin proposal has been hung up in a stalemate
between Walker and Senate Democrats, who fled the state on Feb.
17 to prevent a quorum and block a vote.
The Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday approved a
resolution to fine the missing Democrats $100 a day for
boycotting the vote, hoping to pressure the runaways into
Walker, who proposed a two-year budget on Tuesday with deep
spending and job cuts, said he was willing to compromise with
Democrats on his budget plan but did not offer to negotiate on
the union restrictions.
Ohio only requires a simple majority to vote on bills, so
it would do the Ohio Democrats no good to leave the state.
Several other states also are considering measures
affecting public sector unions, including Indiana, Tennessee,
Idaho and Kansas.
But the Indiana state assembly has also stalled on a
measure aimed at unions after most of its 40 Democrats left the
state for neighboring Illinois, depriving Republicans of the
quorum needed to pass bills.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey. Writing by Greg
McCune. Editing by John Whitesides and Peter Bohan)