Mr. Szollosi, an Oregon Democrat, said Senate Bill 5 is “an attack on workers’ rights” disguised as an effort to give local governments more flexibility to manage their workforce. He lumped it in with Mr. Kasich’s proposed budget, and with bills to change election laws and the prevailing wage law for construction work as examples of what he said was a Republican plan to consolidate political power.
“[The] purpose is to weaken traditional political adversaries of Governor Kasich and the Republican majority, particularly in the House,” Mr. Szollosi said.
He denied that Democrats were championing the rights of the unions in order to promote their own political power.
“We have a system of collective bargaining in place that has proven to work,” Mr. Szollosi said.
Mr. Collins, a political independent who was a police officer and president of the Toledo police officers’ union before he retired, said the city employee strike of 1979 turned Toledo into an “inferno” because employees did not have adequate bargaining rights until the passage of a state collective bargaining law in 1983.
“This is all about unbridled power to an administration that would seek out and destroy the middle class in the state of Ohio,” Mr. Collins said.
Referring to the repeal of binding arbitration in Senate Bill 5, he said, “binding arbitration is what’s held the state together since 1983 and brought civility to the bargaining table.”
Senate Bill 5, approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Republican Governor Kasich, rolls back many of the collective bargaining rights public sector unions have enjoyed for decades, including the right to strike. Public safety unions that were did not have the right to strike were allowed to take deadlocked negotiations to an arbitrator.
Advocates of S.B. 5 have said binding arbitration has developed a bias for the union side in contract disputes and that collective bargaining needed to be balanced.
The news conference, held in the union hall of Local 92, was promoted by We Are Ohio, a coalition of labor and Democrats organized to collect enough signatures to put a referendum of S.B. 5 on the November ballot.
Dan Desmond, vice president of Local 92, said there is still work to be done to collect the minimum number of signatures. He said S.B. 5 is designed for union-busting, not to save local governments money.
So far the advocates of S.B. 5 have not launched a campaign to defend the law. A poll released on Wednesday by Quinnipiac University showed that 54 percent of Ohio voters would vote for repeal. Thirty-six percent said they support the new law while 10 percent remained undecided.