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Published: 4/24/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Petition drive draws crowd at Wildwood

Signers join statewide effort to overturn Senate Bill 5

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
David Werner, wearing the white hat, adds his name to We Are Ohio’s petition to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal Senate Bill 5. Numerous petition drives were held across Ohio on Saturday. David Werner, wearing the white hat, adds his name to We Are Ohio’s petition to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal Senate Bill 5. Numerous petition drives were held across Ohio on Saturday.
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The group seeking to overturn Ohio’s controversial new collective bargaining law, known as Senate Bill 5, attracted droves of people on Saturday willing to sign petitions to put a repeal on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Members of We Are Ohio, which must collect 231,147 valid signatures by June 30, were at Wildwood Preserve Metropark as part of similar drives to be held in county seats across the state.

Karin Barbee, a professor at Bowling Green State University, said the effort to repeal the law will have wide support.

“I think most people who I have talked to, even if they are not in a union, recognize that it is going too far,” Ms. Barbee said.

“Even if they think there might be some logic to it, they recognize this is too much."

Before its approval, Senate Bill 5 drew thousands of protesters to the Statehouse.

The referendum campaign is backed by unions and Democrats. Supporters and opponents are expected to spend millions of dollars on the campaign.

The law, which is on hold for now, would slash collective bargaining powers for public employees. Republican Gov. John Kasich has said the law gives Ohio governments a tool to control costs.

The measure, among other things, would eliminate final binding arbitration as a means to resolve police, firefighter, and other public safety employee disputes, end the practice of government paying for part of the employee’s share of pension contributions, and require all public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health coverage premiums.

Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara, who appeared for the petition drive, said Senate Bill 5 was part of a “far-right-wing agenda” not supported by a majority of Ohioans.

“I think some of the Republicans in Columbus who thought this was a good idea are going to get a really big wake-up call. … I think the legislation just went too far and voters, I think, are going to repeal it,” Mr. McNamara said.

He acknowledged the state is fiscally challenged.

Matthew Barbee of Bowling Green signs the petition to put repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot. Matthew Barbee of Bowling Green signs the petition to put repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot.
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“There are ways of changing the cost of government to make it more efficient, but blaming collective bargaining is a scapegoat,” Mr. McNamara said. “This is dangerous legislation because it is just way too far.”

He also said the effort to repeal the law will attract vast support.

“As we saw today, there were people who do not belong to a union, but who came to sign,” Mr. McNamara said.

“Just because you are not in a union doesn’t mean you don’t support the right to collectively bargain, and, moreover, unions do a lot of good things for people who aren’t even necessarily members in terms of working conditions and advocacy.”

Tom Rose of West Toledo, a union field representative for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said he signed the petition because he thinks Senate Bill 5 is unfair to the middle class.

“It takes away many of the fundamental rights to bargain for working conditions,” Mr. Rose said.

“It is going to lead to increased class sizes [in schools]. It is going to hurt safety forces.”

Donna Westrick of Wood County’s Troy Township and one of the petition drive’s organizers, said she has no doubt the issue will be on the ballot.

“Senate Bill 5 will demolish the middle class and so most people are part of that middle class,” she said.

“In order for us to save our benefits and our pension, and just our working status, we need to save that middle class.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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