The recent actions by worker and pro-labor citizens in Wisconsin appear to be catching on. A similar union-busting bill in Ohio had about 5,000 people show up to protest today, up from a few hundred at the Statehouse on the 10th. According to the AFl-CIO blog:
Just got a report from some of our folks on the ground in Columbus, Ohio, that more than 5,000 people—firefighters, teachers, small business leaders, community members and other public-service workers—filled the Statehouse again today to show their opposition to Senate Bill 5 that eliminates collective bargaining rights for all state workers, including faculty and staff at Ohio state colleges and universities.
• Wipe out, or severely limit, collective bargaining for all state workers -- including unionized faculty and staff at Ohio colleges and community colleges.
• Ban public employee strikes.
• Weaken binding arbitration for police and firefighters, who cannot strike.
• Limit a local union's right to bargain for health insurance.
• Eliminate automatic pay increases for public employees.
• Strip teachers of the right to pick their classes or schools.
If it sounds familiar, it should. It's eerily similar to the bill put forth by the Wisconsin Republican State Senators, and measures endorsed in half a dozen states by newly-elected Republican governors. This is Governor Kasich's method of payback against unions who supported then-Gov. Ted Strickland in his 2010 re-election bid. Kasich said that if he doesn't get his way on collective gaining through SB 5, he'll kill union collective bargaining power through his executive powers via the biennial budget, to be submitted to the General Assembly no later than March 15. In typical Republican fashion, Gov. Kasich and his cronies in the General Assembly are trying to portray the public workers as the cause of state deficits.
While Kasich and some in the legislature are trying to paint public workers as the cause of the state’s budget problems, they conveniently forget to mention that public workers already gave up $100 million in health benefits and $250 million in pay to help balance the current budget, passed in July 2009 when Strickland was governor. Union concessions included four weeks of unpaid furloughs, no pay raises and the loss of five personal days.
In addition, according to an analysis done by the Economic Policy Institute (opens as .pdf), Ohio public-sector employees actually make 6% less than their private-sector counterparts.
Hearings on the bill in Ohio have been going on for two weeks, and more and more rank-and-file have been showing up to protest. The numbers at the Statehouse have grown from a few hundred to 5,000 today. Will Ohio workers and supporters follow the lead of their brothers and sisters in Wisconsin?
Make no mistake, these bills are part of a coordinated assault on workers' rights by Republicans. Similar bills have been filed by Republicans in Idaho and Indiana, where Republican leaders are proposing bills that would limit collective bargaining for wages and benefits. Newly introduced legislation in Tennessee would eliminate teachers' rights to bargain altogether. In Maine, which is controlled by a Republican state legislature and governed by Teabagger Paul LePage, new "right-to-work" legislation is being considered, the first of its kind in New England.
Many thanks to the good folks at the AFL-CIO blog for providing such great data about the war on America's workers.