Ohio bill curbing union rights expected to draw protests

By Reuters
Tuesday, March 1, 2011 11:18 EDT
google plus icon
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) – Ohio’s state capital is expected to be the site of massive union protests on Tuesday as legislators consider a bill to curtail collective bargaining rights for public workers and eliminate their right to strike.

Republican supporters of Senate Bill 5 say the limits to public workers’ ability to bargain are necessary to give local governments flexibility and help reduce the state’s two-year budget deficit of about $8 billion.

“Over time, these contracts have often incorporated demands that frankly belong to public employers rather than employees — things like specifying the number of workers that should be assigned to a specific job,” said Jason Mauk, a spokesman for Ohio State Senate Republicans.

He said the bill provides “some balance to the process.”

But labor unions and Democrats have protested that the bill goes too far in sacrificing public workers’ rights.

Senate Bill 5 is expected to come before a Senate committee Tuesday, and may be voted on by the full Senate this week. Workers plan protest rallies Tuesday and Wednesday.

The bill is being modified from its original form, in which it would prohibit 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.

Proposed changes to the bills, which Mauk said will be incorporated into its language when the bill is reviewed in committee, restore collective bargaining power for public employees on wages, but also prohibit striking for any public employee on the state and local level, said Mauk.

He said the changes bring the bill more in line with the views of Gov. John Kasich, who wanted to preserve some collective bargaining but didn’t want strikes.

More Republican amendments will become public at the committee hearing, Mauk said.

Democratic State Senator Joe Schiavoni predicted the amendments would likely soften the bill, because Republicans, though a majority of 23-10 in the senate, did not have enough Republican votes to pass it in its current form. He thinks the state should sit down with unions and solve “inefficiencies” in collective bargaining, but does not support the bill.

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

Madison, Wisconsin is in its third week of protests over a bill that would limit collective bargaining for public workers. Republicans there have offered no compromises on the bill.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

Reuters.com brings you the latest news from around the world, covering breaking news in business, politics, technology, and more.
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.
  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3NVQSZZC5IM66JEOCSFJUV7FCE Jacques G

    To all voters who voted Republican. You reap what you sow. You should have known something like this would happen. To all voters who voted out of anger, frustration for Repiblicans. Don’t waste your vote in 2012, you’ve done enough damage as it is.

  • samhoustonTX

    And to the DEM politicians, if you will stop pork and refuse money from lobbyists, you will kick ass in 2012.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PSKROFVS7E4PVTI2CEPLFWEJII John

    Meanwhile……here is the straight poop on what is going on in the Buckeye…

    State Sen. Tom Niehaus accuses protesters of defecating in Statehouse

    “The lasting image thus far surrounding the controversy over Senate Bill 5, a proposal to restrict collective bargaining rights for organized labor, occurred on Feb. 22 when more than 5,000 union workers staged a raucous protest rally with colorful signs and bullhorns outside of the Ohio Statehouse.

    The protesters’ target was Republican Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled Senate that is pushing the bill. Even Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus the next day grudgingly expressed admiration for the groups’ ability to coordinate so well and make themselves part of the lawmaking process.

    But right after comments praising the protesters, Niehaus veered in a totally different direction, painting a different lasting image of the protesters at the Statehouse — one not quite so becoming.

    “Unfortunately, we have documented instances where people defecated in the building. We have documented instances where they have written on the walls,” Niehaus said. “This is the people’s house. I used to say treat it like it’s yours. Well, I don’t want it to be like it’s theirs if that’s the way they treat their own home.”

    Some union groups responded immediately, denying that a group featuring police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses and others unionized workers would commit such vile acts in the storied building.

    So, what gives?

    It is clear that Kasich and Statehouse Republicans are frustrated by being upstaged by protesters over SB 5 (Thousands more were expected to rally at the Statehouse on Tuesday, March 1). But PolitiFact Ohio wanted to know whether Niehaus’ accusation would hold up on the Truth-O-Meter. Did protesters really defecate in the Statehouse?

    We asked Niehaus’ staff about the “documented instances” and were told that several were reported to the senator and that he confirmed them with Statehouse management. That management is handled by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

    We called the CSRAB, the curators of the Statehouse, for an accounting of any incidents in the building during the protest.

    “There was defecation in the stairwell to the parking garage,” said CSRAB spokesman Gregg Dodd, but not inside the Statehouse. Furthermore, there is no proof it was left by protesters, and Dodd expressed his doubt. He noted that CSRAB has dealt with this issue before when there are no demonstrations taking place at the Statehouse.

    “Unfortunately it happens from time to time even when there are no events going on, and we think it is either a homeless person or persons, or someone waiting for the bus stop,” Dodd said, explaining that this particular stairwell leads up to the street level where there are stops for the Columbus bus system.

    The top of the stairwell, at the street level, is enclosed by a small, heated shelter house. There are two of these shelters around the Statehouse.

    They are used by homeless people to congregate and sleep at night. The area is also along a stretch that is a main transfer area for the city’s transit system. Scores of people gather at various times of the day waiting for buses.

    “So, there is no way to determine if that was in fact someone associated with the rally,” Dodd said regarding the human waste left behind in the stairwell.

    We’ll give Niehaus a small nod for being right about the writing on the walls. Dodd said there was some writing on the walls inside the Statehouse, but he also noted it was with chalk and was easily cleaned up by the Statehouse maintenance crew. There were also some union stickers stuck to Statehouse floors that needed to be scraped up.

    But Niehaus’ key accusation dealt with defecation..

    In the context of his statement, he clearly was suggesting that protesters soiled the floor, and that it happened inside the Statehouse.

    As Senate president, Niehaus is one of the most influential people in the state government and when he speaks people listen. Yet this claim is beyond inaccurate. It’s a ridiculous assertion that is unsupported by the people who actually take care of the Statehouse.

    Statements that are both inaccurate and ridiculous get a special rating on the Truth-O-Meter: Pants on Fire.”

  • Anonymous

    People are going to have to stop free trade, Globalization, off shoring and outsourcing, if we don’t do that and leave the WTO we can scream and cry but we will still lose. They are attacking the middle class and Obama will do nothing, this is bipartisan, I hope people wake up.

  • SocialistCafe

    A union without the right to strike isn’t a union.

  • Anonymous

    Kasick looked at what was going on in Wisconsin, and said Hey, that looks like a lot of fun! I want to ruin my chance of being re-elected too! I wonder who is kasick’s puppet master in all this.

  • gypski®

    I wouldn’t doubt a republican would shit on the floor then blame it on someone else. Its clearly part of the GOP MO. And that includes writing on shit house walls too!!!!

  • http://harry-canary.myopenid.com/ Harry Canary

    It was probably a republicon that they found on the floor.

  • Anonymous

    Point of order: When talking about collective bargaining, because of safety, Police and Fire have to work. So when they say we’ll leave them with theirs, it’s all bull.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RT3XX4DFKZ2AD7JHO3D3PZ7G4M ChrisK