Ohio Union Protests Gear Up as Vote Nears on Similar Bill as in Wisconsin

by on February 22, 2011 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Labor

By Mark Niquette / Bloomberg News / Feb 22, 2011

Protesters demonstrated at the Ohio Statehouse before a hearing on a bill to limit collective- bargaining for public employees as Wisconsin’s Assembly prepared to vote on a similar measure.

In Ohio, protesters packed the Statehouse atrium as a crowd gathered on the steps outside because the Ohio Highway Patrol is limiting the number of people inside for safety reasons, said Joe Andrews, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. Former Governor Ted Strickland, who came to support the demonstrators, said more people should be allowed in.

“This house ought to be open to the people of Ohio,” Strickland said, as chants of “Kill the bill” and “This is our house” echoed. Strickland called the measure “union busting, pure and simple.”

States face deficits that may reach a combined $125 billion in the next fiscal year, and Republican governors including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Ohio’s John Kasich and New Jersey’s Chris Christie are trying to change rules for collective bargaining and worker contributions for health care and pensions. In Madison, Walker’s bill has prompted days of protests at the Capitol.  …

At the Hearing

In Ohio, protesters began gathering at the Statehouse in Columbus, the capital, about noon for a 4 p.m. Senate hearing on a bill that would eliminate the collective-bargaining rights of state workers and limit negotiations for local government workers to wages only.

Private-sector unions are urging members to join the public employees in fighting the bill, said Tim Burga, president of the 650,000-member Ohio AFL-CIO.

The measure “wrongly punishes teachers, firefighters, nurses, all those in public service, which will ultimately drive down wages and silence the voice of all working families,” Burga said at a Statehouse press conference with the leaders of five private-sector unions.

The state is facing an $8 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium, and governments and school districts need flexibility to manage their costs, said Senator Shannon Jones, the bill’s sponsor.

“We’re out of money, and no number of protesters are going to change that fact,” Jones said in a telephone interview yesterday from her home in Springboro, Ohio.

In Indiana, Democratic House members stayed away from a legislative session today, stalling Republican-sponsored bills including legislation that would allow workers in private-sector unions to opt out, the New York Times reported.

Democratic lawmakers say they are considering whether to leave the state as their counterparts in Wisconsin did, the newspaper said.

That tactic isn’t possible in Ohio, which requires a simple majority to vote on bills. Republicans hold 59 of the 99 House seats and 23 of the Senate’s 33.

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