COLUMBUS — The largest crowds yet showed up at the Statehouse on Tuesday to protest a bill to cut collective bargaining in Ohio while Gov. John Kasich took his message to national news shows asking supporters of the bill to stand firm.
Similar battles rage on in other midwest states such as Wisconsin and Indiana.
More than 5,000 workers on Tuesday loudly but peacefully protested the bill to weaken collective bargaining and make other changes that would impact roughly 360,000 public sector workers.
Republican lawmakers — who control both houses of the legislature — plan to meet again today to discuss the next steps and any changes to the bill, said Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond.
Kathy Richison, a special education teacher at Springfield High and president of the Springfield teachers union, said there were “carloads” of local teachers headed to Columbus late Tuesday afternoon to join in the protest.
“I’m on the way myself,” she said.
The Springfield Education Association represents 521 teachers.
“Every negotiation I’ve been in,” Richison said, “teachers are very mindful of what the district has in their treasury department. To say we’re out to get whatever we can get is not the case. I’m saddened our legislators aren’t aware of what happens in collective bargaining.”
The Senate Insurance Commerce and Labor Committee held the fourth hearing on the bill as several hundred protesters jammed in the Statehouse Atrium shouting “Kill the Bill!”
Committee Chairman Kevin Bacon, R-Worthington, said, “I keep hearing that labor thinks it’s a done deal. We’re still trying to welcome them to the table.”
The four Democrats on the committee oppose the bill while support among the eight Republicans is split.
Former governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, rallied the crowd inside the atrium and said if Senate Bill 5 becomes law there will be an effort to repeal it through a voter referendum.
“What we are seeing happen here in Ohio is a political power grab. It’s an attempt to consolidate political power,” Strickland said.
Kasich went on Fox News and CNN Monday and Tuesday saying changes have to be made on issues like collective bargaining and pensions or workers face losing their jobs.
“If we do not get a handle on pensions, if we do not get a handle on health care, a lot of these employees could ultimately be left high and dry and I do not want to see that happen,” Kasich said on CNN.