Ohio's Union Rights Battle Appears Headed Toward November Referendum

Foes of Ohio legislation that would limit the collective-bargaining rights of public workers unions at the statehouse, Wednesday, March 30, 2011.

hide captionFoes of Ohio legislation that would limit the collective-bargaining rights of public workers unions at the statehouse, Wednesday, March 30, 2011.

Jay LaPrete/AP

Now that the Ohio state Legislature has passed legislation limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees unions, with Gov. John Kasich expected to sign the bill as soon as Friday, the fight moves out of the statehouse and onto the streets, so to speak.

That's because Ohioans opposed to the union-neutering legislation vow to keep it from becoming law through the state's referendum process.

Under Ohio law, opponents have 90 days from the time the governor signs the legislation to collect 231,149 signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot.

If they collect enough valid signatures from 44 Ohio counties within that time frame, the law wouldn't go into effect until voters approved as much, assuming it won a majority of the vote in November, which now seems like a pretty big assumption.

As with other Republican governors elsewhere who have stirred up controversy with through attempts to reduce budgets that have proved unpopular with many of their citizens, the fight has taken a toll on Kasich's approval ratings.

NPR's Don Gonyea reported for Morning Edition that Kasich while Kasich acknowledges that he has lost some of the support that helped him win office in November he maintains that his actions are ultimately the right ones for his state.

An excerpt from his report:

DON: Sixty-four year old Dwight Landis is a retired city worker who joined the latest protests. He did admit that he has long admired Kasich as a smart numbers and finance guy.

LANDIS: I hate to... I'm gonna say it... I voted for him. And I like the idea of getting our house in order. And we do have to get our finances right. But it doesn't have to be predatory. And this is where this is headed. That's the way I see it.

DON: Landis is an independent voter but says Governor Kasich has lost his support - forever. Polls show that the governor's approval rating has plummeted. One new survey puts it at just 30%.

Kasich's reaction?.

KASIC: I'm not at all pleased that somebody who voted for me now thinks I've lost my way. But it's just not true. I can look in their faces and understand their fear. I come from a union family. But it's my job to be a leader, to bring prosperity back to Ohio.

While the Ohio situation has broken mostly along partisan lines, it hasn't been totally true that political affiliation determined where lawmakers have stood on the legislation that would limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public employees in the state.

Five Republican lawmakers voted against the bill known as SB 5.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Five House Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the bill. Republican Reps. Cheryl Grossman of Grove City, Anne Gonzales of Westerville and Mike Duffey of Worthington voted for it.

The bill would require public workers to pay at least 15 percent of health-insurance costs; limit the issues that could be bargained; and allow the governing body to pick its own last offer to settle a negotiation impasse - which unions say turns negotiations into "collective begging."

"This is a fundamentally rigged process," said Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, one of six Senate Republicans to vote against the bill.

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