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Ohio Senate votes to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees

As battles over anti-union bills continue in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, Ohio may be the first one to actually pass legislation that limits collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. The Ohio Senate narrowly approved such a bill on Wednesday.

It includes changes unveiled by its Republican authors earlier this week that reinstate collective-bargaining powers for the state’s more than 300,000 firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public workers, but only on the issues of wages, hours and certain terms and conditions.

But the measure also extends a prohibition on strikes to apply to teachers. And it bans binding arbitration, giving the ultimate power to settle contract disputes with elected bodies. In the case of a city, that power would fall to the city council, and in the case of state contracts, it would fall to the General Assembly…

Union organizers and their allies said the changes don’t go far enough to give workers the ability to bargain on a wide range of contractual issues, including pensions and health benefits. Making strikes illegal for all public workers, they said, effectively neutralizes the power of collective bargaining and gives workers no incentive to come to the table.

“Not only in the bill that was originally offered, but even more in the substitute, the balance of power shifts to the managing side,” said Sen. Tom Sawyer (D). “What are the incentives for public employees to bargain with faith?”

The bill now moves to the Ohio House, where it will almost certainly pass, then to Gov. John Kasich for his signature. In Michigan, several bills are pending that would take a more piecemeal approach to eroding collective bargaining rights.

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