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UPDATE: Ohio Union Law Opponents Stage Petition Parade

By: Randy Yohe; The Associated Press, Sarah Sager Email
By: Randy Yohe; The Associated Press, Sarah Sager Email

UPDATE 6/29/11
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Thousands of opponents of Ohio's new collective bargaining law have paraded through the streets of Columbus to deliver nearly 1.3 million signatures aimed at getting a repeal question on November's ballot.

The We Are Ohio campaign delivered the petitions to the secretary of state Wednesday. They say they have more than twice the number of signatures required to be validated in each of Ohio's 88 counties.

Gov. John Kasich signed the law in March. It bans public employees from striking and restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees and other public workers.

Kasich continued to stand up for the law at an education-related news conference held shortly after the parade.



UPDATE 6/29/11 @11:30 a.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Hundreds of opponents of Ohio's new collective bargaining law have paraded through Columbus streets to deliver what they say are the signatures needed for a ballot issue to let voters decide whether to keep the law.

The We Are Ohio campaign planned to deliver petition signatures to the secretary of state in downtown Columbus on Wednesday. More than 231,000 valid signatures must be collected by Thursday to get the issue on the November ballot.

The group says it has collected hundreds of thousands of extra signatures and will release the final total at a noon news conference.

Gov. John Kasich signed the law in March. It bans public employees from striking and restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees and other public workers.



UPDATE 4/6/11 @ 2:58 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's governor and members of its Legislature could face voter recall efforts under a proposal being pushed by several Democratic state lawmakers.

The measure was spurred by a new state law that dramatically restricts the collective bargaining rights of public workers.

Starting a governor recall effort would require a petition signed by 15 percent of the number of voters in the last governor election. The bill would also apply to other statewide officeholders, excepting judges.

The proposal's sponsors acknowledge it has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland says Ohioans should have an opportunity to react to the curtailing of union rights, just as voters can in Wisconsin. Sixteen state senators there face recall efforts.

The Ohio recall bill will be formally introduced next week.



UPDATE 4/5/11
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Opponents of Ohio's new collective bargaining law have taken the first step in their fight to repeal its limits on public workers' union rights.

A coalition seeking a referendum to overturn the law submitted about 3,000 petition signatures to state officials Monday.

At least 1,000 valid signatures are needed before the bipartisan coalition can move forward with collecting more than 230,000 valid signatures by June 30 to put a statewide issue on the the ballot in November.

The new law was signed by Gov. John Kasich on Thursday. It bans public employee strikes, eliminates binding arbitration and restricts bargaining for more than 350,000 state workers, teachers, police officers and others.

Supporters say the bill is needed to help the state economically, and the state's Department of Administrative Services estimates it could save $191 million each year.

In e-mails sent to Kasich during the two-month battle to pass the legislation, 84 percent of the nearly 12,000 relevant messages were from people who opposed the measure.

Nearly two-thirds of those came from senders identified as public employees or their close relatives, and many were variations of a standardized message.

Supporters sent notes, too, amounting to 16 percent of the e-mails.



UPDATE 4/4/11 @ 2:40 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio government analysts are estimating a new collective bargaining law could save the state about $191 million each year. And they say school districts, townships and other local governments could see more than $1 billion in savings annually.

The figures were released Monday by the state's Department of Administrative Services. The estimates were based on parts of the law dealing with health care costs and wages. The measure prohibits employers from paying more than 85 percent of workers' health insurance costs. It also gets rid of automatic pay increases and pay based on length of service.

Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation Thursday. It bans public employee strikes and restricts bargaining for more than 350,000 state workers, teachers, police officers and others.



UPDATE 4/1/11
CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed a bill to limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers.

The Republican signed the bill in Columbus on Thursday, a day after it was approved by the GOP-led state House and Senate. Opponents have vowed to push for repeal in the November election.

The measure prompted weeks of pro-labor protests by thousands of people amid a national debate over union rights, keyed by a similar bill passed in Wisconsin.

The Ohio bill applies to police officers, firefighters, teachers and many other government workers. It prevents unions from negotiating wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It also eliminates automatic pay increases and bans strikes.

Kasich has said his $55.5 billion state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections.



UPDATE 3/31/11
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Legislation limiting union rights for public employees is heading to the governor's desk.

The state Senate voted 17-16 to give final legislative approval to the bill last night. The House earlier cleared the measure cleared on a 53-44 vote.

Governor John Kasich says his lifting union protections will provide savings needed to close the budget deficit.

The legislation affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages and certain job conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It also does away with automatic pay increases in favor of merit raises and prohibits strikes.

Kasich says his $55.5 billion, two-year state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole.



UPDATE 3/30/11 @ 6 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Republican-led Ohio House has voted to severely limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers, sending a bill that's sparked weeks of pro-labor protests back to the state Senate.

The full House approved the measure Wednesday on a 53-44 vote.

A vote in the GOP-controlled Senate could come later Wednesday. That chamber narrowly passed a previous version of it.

The measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It also does away with automatic pay increases in favor of merit raises.

Gov. John Kasich says his $55.5 billion state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole.

Opponents have vowed to pursue a ballot repeal.



UPDATE 3/30/11 @ 2:28 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Debate on a bill to curtail collective bargaining for Ohio public workers has gotten under way with shouts and laughter from opponents and the House speaker threatening to clear the chamber's balcony.

The Republican-led House was expected to pass the bill Wednesday.

The legislation restricts the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, police officers and other public workers across the state. They could negotiate wages and certain work conditions, but not benefits.

A Democratic effort to have the measure read in its entirety failed on a party-line vote.

Onlookers in the gallery laughed as state Rep. Joseph Ueker said the bill would help city officials save taxpayers money and help the middle class. That prompted House Speaker William Batcher slam his gavel to bring order.



UPDATE 3/29/11 @ 5:18 a.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Pro-union demonstrations were expected Tuesday as a legislative panel in Ohio readied a vote on a bill to limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers, including police, firefighters, teachers and state employees.

The House Commerce and Labor Committee planned to adopt at least 10 substantive changes to the legislation. Those include removing jail time as a possible penalty for public workers who participate in strikes and making clear that public safety workers could negotiate over equipment.

A vote of the full House could come as soon as Wednesday.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure earlier this month. That chamber would have to agree to any changes from the GOP-led House before Gov. John Kasich signs it into law.

Opponents of the measure have vowed a repeal effort.



UPDATE 3/16/11 @ 9:45 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio's House speaker says he hopes to have a collective bargaining bill passed by his chamber and to the governor's desk by early April.

The bill would restrict the bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees in Ohio. It also would ban them from striking.

The legislation has passed the Republican-led state Senate. It's now being considering by a House committee.

House Speaker William Batchelder told reporters Wednesday he doesn't expect the committee to vote on the measure until late this month. He says his members are working on changes to the bill that could be accepted by the Senate.

The proposal has drawn thousands of protesters to the Statehouse, though demonstrations have tapered off since it passed the Senate on March 2.



UPDATE 3/15/11 @ 11:07 p.m.
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Twelve communities across the state of Ohio held protests for good jobs and good communities and against Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget, along with Senate Bill 5.

John Haas, president of Portsmouth's City Council, was one of the many speakers at the protest.

"It’s clear from the polling that the general public does not support Kasich's plan, the Republican plan. I'm very confident that if it does go through the Legislature and the governor signs it, that the referendum will make it to the ballot and the voters of the State of Ohio will get to decided in November," Haas said.

Haas says Monday night, Portsmouth's City Council laid off eight to 10 workers.

"Because of Senate Bill 5, they're afraid to make concessions on wages, where they did it last year. But now, because the governor is going to take away their collective bargaining rights on anything but wages, they're afraid to give up wages right now. It's had a dire consequence in Portsmouth," Haas said.

Rachel Gray and several of her co-workers are feeling the consequences.

"We have heard other facilities were going to close, and this was shock," Gray said.

It was announced Tuesday that the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional facility is closing.

Budget issues, along with a low census, were cited as reasons for closing.

"Three hundred and sixty-eight employees at Ohio River Valley are going to lose their jobs, which is going to directly affect their families, the communities, the schools, because we don't have a lot in this area as far as good employment," Gray said.

Portsmouth's City Council recently passed a resolution against Senate Bill 5.

The resolution was read at a protest a few weeks ago at the State House in Columbus.



UPDATE 3/6/11 @ 7:15 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A newspaper's review of central Ohio government shows that about $74 million in health care and pension costs could be eliminated with the passage of a bill that would reduce the bargaining ability of public employee unions.

The Columbus Dispatch based its findings on the 2010 budgets of seven counties and county seats and seven school districts, employing a total of about 37,400 workers. The savings represents about 1.1 percent of the combined budgets.

Among findings reported Sunday, the newspaper says Columbus would have saved about $50 million. Costs would be unchanged for Ohio State University.

The Dispatch reached its numbers by asking officials how budgets would change under the bill's requirement that government workers pay at least 15 percent of health plan costs and its ban on agencies paying employees' pension obligations.



UPDATE 3/2/11 @ 5:15 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate has passed a measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, university professors, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.

Senators passed the legislation on a 17-16 vote on Wednesday, with all 17 'yes' votes coming from the GOP. Six Republicans voted against the bill.

The bill establishes fines and jail time for those who participate in strikes. Unionized workers could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions - but not health care, sick time or pension benefits.
The measure now goes to the state House, where the GOP holds a 59-40 majority.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has said he supports the effort.



UPDATE 2/27/11
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he's against joblessness, not unions, and is working on a state budget proposal aimed at creating jobs and economic growth.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the Republican worked on his budget Saturday as people rallied at the Statehouse to protest a bill that would limit unions' collective bargaining rights.

Kasich tells the newspaper unions are important but that Republicans working on Senate Bill 5 are trying to help government officials control spending and stand up for taxpayers and private-sector workers.

Kasich says he sometimes talks with fellow GOP governors but denies they're part of a coordinated effort to kill unions for public employees. He says he frequently talks to Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, where a similar bill has caused nearly two weeks of protests.



UPDATE 2/26/11
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Private sector union members and environmentalists have joined the fight against a bill abolishing most collective bargaining rights in Ohio.

The thousands of people at a Statehouse rally Saturday included steel workers, the Sierra Club and retirees protesting a coming vote on Senate Bill 5.

Teachers, firefighters and other public employees demonstrated and canvassed neighborhoods trying to stop a likely committee vote Tuesday on the bill prohibiting public-employee strikes and abolishing unions' rights to bargain on any job conditions other than wages.

Earlier Saturday, several hundred people had filled a park in the working-class city of Lancaster, shouting and waving signs in an effort to stop lawmakers 30 miles north in Columbus from passing the bill.

The protests came as the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate worked on changes to the bill.



UPDATE 2/27/11
LANCASTER, Ohio (AP) - Ohio teachers, firefighters and other public employees are canvassing and demonstrating against a likely vote next week on a proposal that would limit collective bargaining rights for unions.

Several hundred gathered Saturday in a park in the small, working-class city of Lancaster, shouting and waving signs in an effort to stop lawmakers 30 miles north in Columbus from passing the bill. A Statehouse protest organized by labor unions and Democrats was scheduled for noon.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has defended the measure and the potential savings from it.

The Columbus Dispatch reports a state Office of Collective Bargaining report estimated the bill's union limits could have saved state and local governments a combined $1.3 billion in 2010.

The GOP-led Senate has said wage restrictions woven into those calculations will be stripped from the bill.



UPDATE 2/23/11@ 10:50 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson said workers shouldn't be the "scapegoat" for the nation's economic woes as he joined a few hundred people at a union hall in Ohio amid debate over a bill that would abolish collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Chants of "collective bargaining, not collective begging" and Jackson's trademark "keep hope alive" were heard at the Teamsters downtown Columbus hall on Wednesday, and some held signs reading "stop the war on workers." On Tuesday, Jackson had joined protesters at the Statehouse, where a Senate committee reviewed the bill.

He says what's happening to workers stands in comparison to the "bailout" of billionaire bankers.

Says Jackson: "We've got to feed the roots, not just the leaves. Workers must not be the scapegoat for a rather profound economic crisis."



UPDATE 2/23/11 @ 4:30 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio Senate leaders say they plan to change a collective bargaining bill to allow state workers the chance to negotiate wages, but the measure would still ban public employees from striking.

Senate President Tom Niehaus told reporters Wednesday the change comes after lawmakers considered testimony on the bill. He says he doesn't view the revisions as a compromise of the bill's intent.

State Sen. Kevin Bacon says the state Department of Administrative Services suggested that keeping some sort of collective bargaining would be more cost-efficient than eliminating the system entirely.

The initial bill called for a ban on collective bargaining by state workers. It has drawn thousands of protesters to the and prompted a visit by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

No vote has been scheduled on the proposal.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/22/1
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Thousands of people are fighting a bill that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights; that includes teachers, firefighters and the police force.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich governor supports the bill. Kasich says it gives balance to struggling governments -- big and small. But many local government union members say Senate Bill 5 will hurt all of Ohio workers.

Kasich was nonchalant over the protesters. He wants to create jobs. But, a group of unionized Portsmouth city teachers came to tell the governor that losing collective bargaining would devastate southern Ohio education.

“Collective bargaining always worked to bring in good teachers," said Beth Burke, a Portsmouth teacher. "We have so many issues here, we love our kids -- this would be devastating.”

Gov. Kasich counters, saying that Ohio SB 5 will give struggling local governments the tools to deal with less money. He says, for example, the average Ohio private sector employee is paying 23 percent for health insurance -- the average city employee only 9 percent.

Kasich says he's just looking for some balance.

“Give managers the tools to manage -- to make sure they can balance budgets and not raise taxes and drive business out of Ohio,” Kasich said.

Ironton Police Sgt. Pam Wagner, the local police union president, says a law restricting binding arbitration will affect the community, going beyond legal fights for wages benefits and working conditions.

“Arbitration deals with promotions -- there's a chance we might not get the most qualified person for the job,” Wagner said.

Kasich said, “It’s obvious we need a balance between the government workers and those who pay the bills."

But with SB 5, what's obvious is a matter of opinion.

Wagner says some parts of binding arbitration need adjusting -- but the whole system should not be junked.

Lawmakers are currently debating SB 5. We'll keep you posted on the progress.


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