Ohio collective bargaining law repealed
Ohioans voted Tuesday night to repeal a Republican-backed law that restricted collective bargaining for public workers, a victory for Democrats and labor organizers both nationally and in the state.
AP has declared Issue 2 (as the law was called on the ballot) dead. As of this writing, with about a quarter of precincts in, repeal led by a whopping 63 to 37 percent margin.
Gov. John Kasich (R) took office in January vowing to curb unions’ power. But he appears to have overstepped his hand in curtailing the rights of 350,000 public workers — including firefighters and police officers — to negotiate over benefits, equipment and other issues.
The backlash against the law began as soon as Kasich signed it, in March. By August, when the governor asked for a compromise with unions, it was too late.
As in other states, the law became a battleground for an ongoing fight between labor and conservative groups over collective bargaining. In Wisconsin, after Gov. Scott Walker (R) eliminated collective bargaining for many public employees, Democrats and labor failed to take back the state Senate in recall elections. Now, unions have their first bonafide win.
By including firefighters and police officers in the legislation, Republicans in Ohio set themselves up for a far more difficult fight. Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law made exceptions for both.
“The governor and his legislative friends really overreached,” said Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “All of labor was together on this. I think it’s a model for fights across the country.”
Democrats also claimed victory, framing the results as a rebuke to Republican lawmakers across the country after the GOP swept statehouses across the country in 2010. Ohio Democrats were brutally beaten in that election.
“With the change in political power in many states last year, Republican governors misread voters’ intentions and used their newfound power to sharpen their ideological axes and enact partisan retribution,” said Democratic Governors Association Chairman Martin O’Malley. “Ohioans—and Americans—understand that firefighters, police officers, and teachers didn’t cause this economic recession.”
In addition to limiting bargaining and banning strikes, the law mandates that public workers pay 15 percent of their health-care benefits and 10 percent of wages into their pensions — something that state, but not county and local workers already do.
Republicans argued that the legislation was not only fair, but necessary to balance the budget. Democrats and unions argued that it was a senseless attack on hardworking public servants.