February 25, 2011 / 10:50 PM / 7 years ago

Ohio Republicans may modify state worker union bill before vote

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Reuters) - An Ohio bill that would terminate collective bargaining rights for state workers likely will be softened by amendments before it comes to a vote next week, an Ohio Senate Democrat said on Friday.

“I believe it will definitely be less draconian, it will definitely be softer,” said Joe Schiavoni.

Schiavoni, from Columbus, said while Senate Republicans had a 23-10 majority, they did not have enough votes to pass the bill in its current form as some Republicans have expressed concerns about it. Republicans plan to work over the weekend to come up with a substitute bill.

If there is a substitute bill, there could be a floor vote Wednesday, Schiavoni said.

He said he doesn’t know what amendments the Republicans are considering, but doesn’t see how completely destroying collective bargaining will help the state’s finances.

Asked about the bill, Republican state Senator Karen Gillmor of Columbus said in an email that as a former member of the State Employees Relations Board, she would urge all her colleagues, including Senate President Thomas Niehaus, to sit down with union leaders and public employee representatives to find “common ground.”

“I assure you that as the bill is being considered by the Senate, I will do everything in my power to remove what is bad and to leave in what is good,” Gillmor said.

Wisconsin has been embroiled in protests for two weeks over a bill to limit collective bargaining for state workers. Republicans in Wisconsin who back the bill have not offered a compromise.

Columbus saw thousands of protesters against the Ohio bill on Tuesday, and protests have been held in other Ohio cities throughout the week, Schiavoni said.

Ohio’s bill goes farther than Wisconsin’s in some ways, said Republican Senate spokesman Jason Mauk.

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.

Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Jerry Norton

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