The next Wisconsin? Teachers, police, union members converge on Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Statehouse, Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A hearing on a bill that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights has brought thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers, students and community members to the Statehouse in Columbus in protest.

The thousands of union members and supporters began their rally at the state capitol Tuesday as lawmakers hold a hearing on state Senate Bill 5.

The Republican-backed measure would end collective bargaining rights for state workers and restrict teachers, firefighters, police, university employees and local workers in their bargaining abilities.

Supporters say the measure could help control spending and provide more flexibility for cash-strapped governments.

In a news release, protest organizers call the bill a misguided measure that does nothing to create jobs. They say it will hurt all workers in Ohio.

This bill is nothing more than the same old politics as usual, said Jeana Campolo, who cares for individuals with developmental disabilities at the Mount Vernon Developmental Center and braved the cold weather to join thousands to show her opposition to Senate Bill 5. This is more than a worker issue. It is about a broader attempt to erode the middle class and hurt working families. That is why there are students, faith leaders, small business leaders and others here (Tuesday) because they understand it is an attack on them too.

Earlier this month, 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

Michigan AFL-CIO says they plan to send 300 to 400 people to Lansing on Tuesday in opposition of bills pending in the Legislature that unions say would undermine organized labor's power to bargain contracts.

The planned rallies come after Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder has made his budget proposal.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)

What is your take on the challenge to state unions? What is the White House's role in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states looking to cut union rights? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.