Thousands of Ohio union members and their allies descended on Columbus Feb. 22 to protest legislation that would weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Holding signs and chanting "kill the bill," the protesters rallied outside the Statehouse before going inside to attend a state Senate hearing on Senate Bill 5. Many members of the Ohio Federation of Teachers were among those who voiced their opposition to the bill.
"Ohio's collective bargaining law benefits both employers and workers by managing expectations and goals," says OFT president Sue Taylor. "If teachers lose their right to collectively bargain contracts, they lose the ability to safeguard students by having a say in maintaining appropriate class size and attracting quality teachers."Mirroring the situation in Wisconsin, Gov. John Kasich and the Republican majority in the Ohio Legislature are attempting to curb the political power of unions and silence workers’ voices in the guise of balancing the budget.
The bill would significantly change the ability of Ohio's state and local public employees—including teachers, police officers and firefighters—from negotiating terms of employment through collective bargaining. This would significantly affect public employees at the state and local levels.
The repeal of collective bargaining does nothing to balance the state’s budget, yet would kill jobs and weaken the middle class, the OFT charges.
Protesters were locked out of the Capitol after only about 750 people had been allowed entry. However, after the Ohio Democratic Party threatened a lawsuit 500 more people were allowed in. "This is the people’s house. Ohioans came from all over the state today to make their voices heard," Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern said.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland rallied the large crowd. "What we are seeing happen here in Ohio is a political power grab. It’s an attempt to consolidate political power," he said.
Similar protests were also held in other Ohio owns and cities, including Canton, Dayton and St. Clairsville.
February 23, 2011