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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Issue 2 opponents, supporters face off

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Doug Stern, a Cincinnati firefighter, speaks against State Issue 2 during a We Are Ohio bus tour stop Wednesday in Toledo. Doug Stern, a Cincinnati firefighter, speaks against State Issue 2 during a We Are Ohio bus tour stop Wednesday in Toledo.
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Opponents of the state’s controversial proposed collective bargaining law on Wednesday brought their statewide bus trip to Toledo, where they were met by a handful of counter-protesters.

Speakers for the People’s Road Trip set up on a street near the Lucas County Board of Elections’ early vote center on Washington Street near downtown. They urged a vote against Issue 2, which is a referendum on the law known as Senate Bill 5 that curtails public employee bargaining rights, and they urged people to take the opportunity to vote early.

Doug Stern, a Cincinnati firefighter, and other speakers denounced Senate Bill 5 as a threat to public safety if firefighters and other public workers can’t bargain for staffing levels.

“Firefighters know their job. They know what’s safe and what’s not,” said Mr. Stern, 37, of Green Township, a suburb of Cincinnati. He invited the group of about half a dozen protesters closer for a dialogue after the news conference.

The supporters of S.B. 5, organized by the Lucas County Republican Party, waved signs such as “It’s Our $” and “Yes On Issue 2.”

Mr. Stern and one of the GOP protesters, John Marshall, a candidate for Sylvania Township trustee, ended up in a civil discussion about Issue 2, though neither changed the other one’s opinion.

Mr. Marshall, 58, said the speakers had been drinking “union Kool-aid” and said that public unions have been unwilling to negotiate during the tough times for state and local governments.

A small group of supporters of State Issue 2, including Todd Smith of Toledo, left, and John Marshall of Sylvania Township, seated, express their support for the issue Wednesday during a We Are Ohio bus tour stop in Toledo. A small group of supporters of State Issue 2, including Todd Smith of Toledo, left, and John Marshall of Sylvania Township, seated, express their support for the issue Wednesday during a We Are Ohio bus tour stop in Toledo.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

“When there’s tough times you gotta give back,” Mr. Marshall said.

Mr. Stern said it’s not true that unions have been unwilling to negotiate. He said he and his fellow firefighters pay 20 percent of their health insurance and haven’t had a pay raise in two years.

A key talking point of Gov. John Kasich is that Senate Bill 5 will require public employee union members to pay the full 10 percent of the employee contribution to their state pensions and 15 percent towards their health care premium.

A January report on health care by the State Employment Relations Board said public employees in Ohio paid an average of 9.5 percent of the premium for single-person coverage and 10.7 percent of the premium for family coverage. The average monthly contributions were $46 for single coverage and $136 for family coverage.

SERB said it has counted 243 contracts out of a total of 3,270 involving public employees in Ohio in which the employee share was partially or completely paid by the employer. However, Cheri Alexander, administrator of research and training, said SERB hasn’t finished reviewing the contracts, including those of Toledo city unions.

The city pays the employee pension contribution for most city workers, except for new hires under recently negotiated contracts.

The People’s Road Trip stopped in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Lima on Tuesday. It continues Wednesday on to Cleveland for two stops. On Thursday the bus tour will take in Youngstown and Steubenville. The tour wraps up Friday in Marietta and Columbus.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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