By ANN SANNER, Associated Press
COLUMBUS,Â Ohio (AP) – The Republican-ledÂ Ohio House voted Wednesday to severely limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers across the state, sending a bill that’s sparked pro-labor protests for weeks back to the stateÂ Senate.
The measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but notÂ health care,sick time, orÂ pension benefits. It gets rid of automaticÂ pay increases, and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.
Gov.Â John Kasich has said his $55.5 billion state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. The first-term governor and his Republican colleagues argue the bill would help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they too are feeling budget woes.
Contentious debates over restricting collective bargaining have popped up in statehouses across the country, most notably inÂ Wisconsin, where the governor signed into law this month a bill eliminating most of state workers’ collective bargaining rights. That measure exempts police officers and firefighters;Â Ohio’sdoes not.
TheÂ Ohio bill has drawn thousands of demonstrators, prompted a visit from theRev. Jesse Jackson and packed hearing rooms in the weeks before theÂ Senatepassed the measure. Its reception in theÂ House has been quieter, though Wednesday’s vote drew several hundred demonstrators to the Statehouse.
But the overall response by protesters in the Rust Belt state, despite its long union tradition among steel and auto workers, paled in comparison toWisconsin, where protests peaked at more than 70,000 people.Â Ohio’s largest Statehouse demonstrations on the measure drew about 8,500 people.
TheÂ House vote was met with several minutes of shouting from the balconies, including the cry, “Shame on you!”
Democrats oppose the measure, but have offered no amendments to it. Instead, they delivered boxes containing more than 65,000 opponent signatures to theÂ House labor committee’s chairman.
Many Democrats, along with other opponents, have vowed to lead a ballot-repeal effort if the measure passes.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9M9QQMG0&show_article=1
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