Vote near on bill that would restrict rights for Ohio's unions

An Ohio legislative committee is nearing a vote on a bill to restrict collective bargaining for the state's 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other workers.

The committee chairman says he has the support to get the bill to the full Senate, but wanted to give lawmakers a chance to review some proposed changes Wednesday.

The revisions include a ban on public employee strikes and call for penalties if workers take part in walkouts. The bill would limit vacation and sick time. Some 8,500 labor sympathizers turned out Tuesday to protest the measure at the Statehouse in Columbus.

Collective bargaining restrictions have sparked debate in statehouses across the country, most notably in Wisconsin, where a scheduled vote on a similar bill prompted Democratic lawmakers to flee the state.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) strongly opposed Gov. Kasich' s attempts to undermine the collective bargaining rights of Ohio workers through Ohio TMs Senate Bill 5. Decent, hardworking Americans, many of whom earn $24,000, have already sacrificed and they TMre willing to do their share, said Kaptur. They aren TMt asking for more than they deserve and should not be blamed for their state TMs budget problems.

Key changes to Ohio Senate Bill 5:

-Allows all current contracts with public employee unions to be re-opened as if under fiscal emergency.-Allows collective bargaining rights for state employees on wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, within limits.-Bases future pay increases on merit and keeps those merit raises within established pay ranges.-Caps vacation leave at 7.7 hours per two-week pay period after 19 years of service, as opposed to current 9.2 hours per two-week pay period after 24 years of service.-Caps annual sick leave for state and local government employees and employees of state colleges and universities at 10 days a year.-Identifies areas not subject to collective bargaining, such as health care benefits, pension pick-ups, privatization of services, and work force levels such as maximum classroom sizes for teachers.-Bans striking for all public employees.-Establishes penalties for strikers that include firing and sanctions of up to twice the employees' daily pay each day the strike continues; violating a court injunction against a strike could mean up to $1,000 in fines, up to 30 days in jail, or both.-Gives each public employer's legislative body the ability to settle unresolved contract disputes after reviewing the employer's last best offer, the union's last best offer, and holding a public hearing and public vote.-Clarifies public employer rights on hiring, firing, discipline, work assignments, employee qualifications and other rules.-Excludes firefighters in supervisory roles from collective bargaining and establishes new firefighter bargaining guidelines-Excludes management-level employees of public universities from collective bargaining-Bases teacher layoffs not only on tenure but also on teacher performance as measured by level of license and other qualifications, student performance and performance evaluations or other evaluations set by the school board.