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OH-USA

Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As many as 3,800 boisterous public workers from across the state descended on the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, rocking the normally sleepy Capitol to protest a far-reaching bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights. ...

While the protesters, many from the Ohio AFL-CIO and various police and fire and teachers unions across the state, were loud, the demonstrations were peaceful [#47].

The highway patrol estimated the crowd at 1,800 on the low end. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board put the crowd total at 3,800, explaining that nearly 1,000 were in the atrium alone.

The protest was similar to what has exploded in Wisconsin this week. On Thursday, for the third day in a row, tens of thousands of state and local union workers protested against a similar proposal from that state's governor, Scott Walker. ...

President Barack Obama's campaign group Organizing For America is supporting Wisconsin union workers and is now gearing up to help workers in Ohio and Indiana, whose legislature is considering a bill to limit collective bargaining by teachers, according to the Democratic National Committee.

Hmmm. So, Obama's sent to OFA to fight a rear-guard action against R governors exploiting a crisis he himself created when he bailed out the banks and not the states. Oh-kay....

At stake here is Ohio's nearly 30-year-old collective bargaining law that hasn't been changed since its inception. It gives organized state and local workers the right to collectively bargain for their working conditions and allows police and fire officials a right to seek binding arbitration.

But under the direction of Republican Gov. John Kasich, the GOP-controlled legislature is ready to rewrite the law and ban collective bargaining for all state employees and sharply curtail binding arbitration rules for local governments.

Republicans on Thursday stressed that they weren't trying to harm the workers but save Ohio cities from potentially going bankrupt as they try to keep up with the rising cost of salaries and benefits gained by municipal workers through binding arbitration.

"My concern is controlling the blossoming salaries and budgets for local governments and the state," said state Sen. Kevin Bacon, a Columbus Republican who chairs the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor committee, where the bill is being heard.

"They are locked in situations that are really hard to reverse under these rules," Bacon said. [Yes, those are called contracts.] "So it's not about trying to go after labor. It is trying to create flexibility, which they won't like." ...

"What I'm seeing here today is that management is trying to be seen as the victim here, but they sit across the table and negotiated these deals just like us," [which is what conservatives really hate] said Lawrence McKissic, of Twinsburg, who was at the Statehouse on Thursday. McKissic is an IT specialist for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation in Garfield Heights.

"My concern as a state worker is that we would be unilaterally taken out of collective bargaining and it is being done without any word or input from the union or the employees," he said. "They're just trying slam this through this committee."

Bacon said he expects to have one or two more hearings next week and likely some amendments to the bill before it moves out of committee.