More than a thousand people descended on the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday in protest of a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for public employees unions.
The crowd at the Columbus protest was mostly against Senate Bill 5, which would eliminate collecting bargaining rights and salary schedules for state employees, including teachers at hundreds of Ohio public school districts and colleges.
As Ohio faces an $8 million budget shortfall, Gov. John Kasich says union labor costs must be reduced. Supporters of the bill say moving to a merit-based pay system will help solve the problem. Union leaders argue they've already made enough concessions.
"It's in the interest of the voters to get the best people, to pay them well, and we can do that if we can free up resources by providing more flexibility to the people who are managing the government programs," said SB 5 supporter Jack Painter.
Some state union leaders say their members' work is worth every penny. "When we go to work, and when my members go to work, we earn every dollar," said Jack McDonald, President of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. "Not only for the work that we do, but for what we might encounter. "
There have also been massive protests and legislative boycotts in Wisconsin this week, shutting down several public school districts after a majority of state teachers stormed the capitol on Thursday. Wisconsin's governor is going for major change - an end to collective bargaining for public employees, plus additional costs to their pension and health care benefits, mirroring the proposal to end collective bargaining rights that is being pursued in Ohio.
Earlier this week, Toledo Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat testified in Columbus, saying Toledo supports negotiations rights, but management needs more discretion in deciding affordable pay rates.
Herwat told the Senate Committee that Toledo mayor Mike Bell and his administration are committed to the principle of collective bargaining for Toledo's unions. "We welcome the opportunity to sit across the table with our unions to negotiate a fair wage and benefit package. We must do so recognizing that there is a limit on what we can afford to pay, especially in today's unprecedented and trying fiscal reality."
Read Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat's entire testimony before Ohio Senate Committee
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