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AFL-CIO reacts to Senate Bill 5
Labor leaders plan protests, referendum in response to collective bargaining issue
by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA


Reporter
Kabir Bhatia
 

A Senate bill that severely curtails collective bargaining for public workers is now in the hands of the Ohio House, where it’s expected to pass. But WKSU's Kabir Bhatia reports that the labor union says they aren’t done yet...and neither is the governor they oppose.
 

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Last week in Wisconsin, 150 thousand people marched in snow to protest a collective bargaining bill that’s a less severe change than what the Ohio Senate passed this week.
In Wisconsin, and in Ohio, Republican governors say they’re just trying to give local governments the tools they need to deal with huge budget cuts. And in Wisconsin and Ohio, labor has labeled the Governors anti-worker radicals out to cripple unions under the guise of budget problems.

David Newby is president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO and was in Cleveland Thursday speaking about his state's labor legislation. A former teacher, Newby grew up Northeast Ohio, and says the fights in Wisconsin and Ohio are about more than just salaries.

"(NEWBY)…Given the increased power of corporations and the very wealthiest elements of our society, especially in the last 20 to 30 years, the labor movement is the only obstacle to uncontrolled corporate control of this country. Even though we represent, in membership, a minority of working people, still what we are doing is out there fighting for the interests of everyone in the working class and the middle class, whether they’re members or not..."

John Kasich isn’t buying it. He, too, was in Cleveland Thursday.

"(KASICH)...Teachers, policeman, firemen, these are people that matter to us. Frankly, I'd like to see them paid more, but we have to work within the confines of what works with taxpayers. I think the Bill's very fair, I think it's balanced, and I think it's entirely appropriate..."

The differences of opinion about what is appropriate is not likely to end with passage of the bill that would eliminate binding arbitration, outlaw public employee strikes, eliminate annual pay increases and increase what most employees pay for benefits. For one thing, the Governor says it is only a glimpse of massive changes to come

"(KASICH)…This is just one step, in a very significant reform effort, that'll be unveiled on the 15th of March. It's designed to create an environment for job creation. The State of Ohio, in the last 10 years, has gone from 12 billion dollar’s worth of taxes that have come from investments, down to three. So people are not hanging in here right now, we need them to stay, we need our young people to stop leaving, we need our jobs to [stop] leaving. And we're having some successes, and we're moving quickly, I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish in a short 50 days..."

North Shore AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Harriet Applegate says the union is already planning two events in response to the budget -- a protest in Strongsville and a town hall meeting in Cleveland.
She acknowledges that passage of SB5 by the House is likely. So, her organization is mobilizing the state's three-hundred-thousand-plus public employees to get enough voter signatures to put a referendum challenging the bill on this November's ballot.

"(APPLEGATE)...If we put this on the ballot in November, we're gonna win it. I think there are people who would not sleep a wink between now and November [if] they see this pass..."

That assumes that SB5 doesn't just pass, but passes by April 6th. Republicans are racing toward that date. That’s because, if there’s going to be a referendum, they’d rather it be in this year’s off-year election than in the 20-12 presidential election, which is likely to bring out bigger numbers of Democratic voters.

 
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