Columbus, OH - Around 700 workers, students and community activists poured into and around the statehouse here yesterday, including 200 who were admitted to the House gallery to witness the passage of Senate Bill 5.
Senate Bill 5 is a blatant attempt by Republican Governor John Kasich and the Republican controlled Ohio legislature to break the back of unions while lying to the public about “budget difficulties.” This same governor and his cronies in the state government have also been pushing to eliminate Ohio’s estate tax, which taxes property inherited by the relatives of the very rich. It’s clear that this bill, along with other similar bills in other states, is a coordinated attack on the working class in America and has nothing to do with budget problems.
The bill passed the house by a vote of 53-44 with minor changes from the Senate version of the bill. The Senate passed the House version by a vote of 17 to 16. The passage of Senate Bill 5 was met with loud opposition by the workers and trade unionists who were in attendance at the statehouse. Many opponents of the bill were forcibly removed from the gallery as they sang We Shall Not Be Moved and shouted “Repeal it!” and “Ohio hates you.”
The union busting bill eliminates all collective bargaining rights for public employees employed by the state and state agencies, including corrections officers, state troopers and college professors, among others. City and county employees will have bargaining rights severely restricted. Among the many attacks on workers’ rights, SB-5 makes it so public workers will no longer able to bargain over healthcare benefits or pension contributions. Public employers are not allowed to pay more than 80% of the costs for health care benefits. Teachers’ unions have been stripped of their power to negotiate over layoff procedures, teacher salaries, teacher placement and classroom sizes, with those decisions now being decided solely by superintendents.
Furthermore, public workers cannot agree to contracts in which seniority is considered as a factor when determining layoffs. Public employers “last best offers” will now be considered the default “agreement” whenever a labor contract is in dispute. The bill rigs labor negotiations so that the final decisions made about contracts are left in the hands of politically motivated elected officials, instead of arbitration. Public employers have also been given the power to unilaterally reopen labor contracts when they deem there to be a “fiscal emergency.” Finally, among other things, public workers are banned from striking and striking workers can be permanently replaced.
The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kasich on March 31 and large demonstrations are expected. Workers, students, trade unionists and their allies are expected to push to put the law up for vote on the ballot in November.Read more News and Views from the Peoples Struggle at http://www.fightbacknews.org. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org