Columbus - Chants of "Kill the Bill!," "Recall!" and "O-H-I-O, Kasich's Ass Has Got To Go!" were the soundtrack for thousands of protesters who descended on Ohio's State Capitol Tuesday morning to demonstrate against Republican efforts to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
Senate Bill 5, which passed by the narrowest of margins in a 17-16 vote last week, would allow state and municipal employees to bargain only for wages. Health benefits, pension plans, hours, vacation time, working conditions and all other terms of employment would be off the table.
In the event that a deal cannot be reached between a public sector union and management on wages, the legislative body with jurisdiction would be allowed to step in and accept its own last offer made. Strikes would also become illegal for public sector workers.
"This is the most powerful attack on workers in our time. But is also raises the most important question of economic justice in our time," U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who was at the rally to support protesters, told EconomyInCrisis.org.
"This really is important for everyone that cares about working people, whether it's union or non-union. This is about the essence of democracy."
Many view the legislation as an attack on public workers and a tool to dismantle public sector unions, most of which have a long history of supporting Democratic candidates and causes.
But Republicans and proponents of the bill claim that the move is absolutely necessary to close an $8 billion budget gap in the state. According to their view, providing school boards, city councils and other elected bodies with more flexibility in negotiations will go a long way toward that goal.
"I think you have to make these difficult decisions. This isn't an anti-union bill. This is a pro-taxpayer bill. This isn't an attack on the unions. This is a step in the right direction. I think Gov. Kasich deserves credit for what he's doing," said David Spealman, a campaign coordinator with Freedom Works, a group known for fighting against progressive causes and more so for being instrumental in the creation of the anti-government Tea Party movement.
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