Ohio Repeals Collective-Bargaining Law

In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers. With more than a quarter of the votes counted late Tuesday, 63 percent of votes were to reject the law.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

This was election day, and voters in Ohio rejected a referendum that would have limited the collective bargaining rights of state and local employee unions. Today's result is a blow to the state's Republican Governor, John Kasich, who had championed the measure.

Joining us now is Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio. She's in Columbus. And, Karen, first, bring us up to speed on the referendum there. Why were voters asked to weigh in on a state policy about public unions?

KAREN KASLER, BYLINE: Well, this goes back, in a way, to the election of 2010 when Republicans swept into office. All the statewide offices that were on the ballot in 2010 went to the GOP, most notably John Kasich, the governor. And he made it pretty clear from his first days in office, and even before he came into office, that he wanted to do some collective bargaining reform. And so this bill came about. It actually was introduce by a state senator. He certainly supported it.

And so, yeah, I think it's fair to say that a fairly wide margin of victory does, at least according to these folks here at the anti-Issue 2 headquarters where I'm at, according to these folks here, this does send a message to the governor that his collective bargaining reforms went too far.

In Ohio, they went further than they did in Wisconsin because they included police officers and firefighters. And that, in a way, is getting some of the credit or the blame for why this issue has indeed failed.

SIEGEL: Well, give us a sense of who, from outside of Ohio, had some hand in shaping the referendum campaigns, either being against this referendum or in favor of it.

KASLER: Well, there's a tremendous amount of money that was spent in this campaign, both in Ohio and from out of state. Certainly, the unions were key in that, both the state labor unions that represents public employees, but also the national labor unions, the National Education Association, the AFL-CIO, some of these groups that supported the effort overthrowing these reforms. But also on the vote yes side, there was a lot of money that was coming in from out of state from other conservative groups, groups that are tied to Karl Rove, a group called Alliance for America's Future that was sending out some literature. And so we had a lot of money on both sides, but certainly, the opponents of Issue 2 outspent the proponents of Issue 2 by a wide margin.

SIEGEL: So the voters of Ohio had spoken, and the law-limiting state employee unions would be repelled. What happens next?

KASLER: Well, it depends on what the actual margin does turn out to be between the yes votes and the no votes. The speaker of the Ohio House has already said he wants to introduce certain elements of (unintelligible) as it was known when the legislature comes back. But is the margin of victories really large? All of the members of the house and a third of the state senate are up for re-election next year in 2012. And that's going to make a difference because nobody wants to put their seat on the line most likely to get some of these reforms through. At least that's the analysis that I'm hearing from Democrats here at this headquarters.

So it really depends on how wide this victory and the defeat is before we actually see the fallout. But certainly, this is something the Republicans have talked about for a while, and this is probably not the last word here in Ohio.

SIEGEL: And is it still too early tonight to know how big that margin might be, or is there any indication?

KASLER: Well, folks here at the anti-Issue 2 headquarters are claiming a more than 20-point victory. They're claiming it was somewhere around 64 percent over the other side. The votes are still coming in. We're still counting everything out, so it could be a little while before we know the final figures. But certainly a big win for these folks here.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Karen.

KASLER: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio. Ohio voters, once again, have shot down an effort to curb the collective bargaining rights of public sector employee unions.

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