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Published: 7/22/2011

Elections chief certifies labor vote on Nov. 8

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- Opponents of Ohio's new law restricting government workers' right to collective bargaining Thursday said Republicans "have awakened a sleeping giant" that won't be going back to sleep anytime soon.

Organizations representing big labor, civil rights groups, churches, retirees, and veterans met in Columbus shortly before Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that a referendum on Senate Bill 5 had been certified for the Nov. 8 ballot.

County boards of election had verified 915,456 valid signatures of registered voters out of nearly 1.3 million raw signatures gathered to put the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Supporters of the repeal needed 231,147 signatures and had to surpass 3 percent of the vote cast in last year's gubernatorial election in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.

Mr. Husted said they qualified in all 88 counties. In Lucas County, 4,342 were needed. More than 32,000 valid signatures were filed.

The number of valid signatures is believed to be a record for an Ohio ballot issue.

Richard Trumka, national president of the AFL-CIO, pledged that enough resources from outside Ohio will flow to the state to battle what he characterized as big-money interests on the other side seeking to defend the law.

"There will be significant recognition, just like there will be in Wisconsin and a couple of other states, because they are high-profile governors that have bought onto a national campaign to destroy the voices of working people and the progressives so they have a clear playing field in politics," he said.

With Thursday's ballot certification, the battle enters the next phase.

"We can finally get beyond the process of putting a referendum on the ballot and start focusing on the merits of these reasonable reforms," said Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, the organization defending Senate Bill 5.

"Ohio voters now have a choice to make," he said. "We can keep the unfair, unsustainable policies that are bankrupting our communities or we can change direction and give them the tools they need to create jobs and get spending under control. It's that simple."

Senate Bill 5 prohibits public employee strikes, eliminates the automatic deduction of "fair share" fees from workers who refuse to join the union, and replaces binding arbitration for police, fire, and other public safety employees.

"Look what good has come of this," Rosseau O'Neal, pastor of the Rockdale Baptist Church in Cincinnati, said during the anti-Senate Bill 5 meeting. "We've put an alliance together that we haven't seen in decades because we rested on our laurels … This has awakened a sleeping giant, which is all of us around the table. … Let us stay together this time."

A separate proposed ballot issue, one pushed by the opposite end of the political spectrum, is still waiting to see it has qualified for the ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow Ohioans to reject mandates under President Obama's health care law that requires Americans to obtain health insurance.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.



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