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Ohio voters reject collective bargaining law in statewide referendum

Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected Senate Bill 5 [SB 5 text, PDF], which would have impacted Ohio's 400,000 public workers by limiting their ability to strike and collectively bargain for health insurance and pensions. It would have mandated that public workers pay 15 percent of their health insurance premiums and at least 10 percent of their salary to pensions. The proposed bill was strongly defeated with 61 percent [NPR report] of the votes placed to repeal the law and only six counties supporting the bill with a majority of votes. Ohio Governor John Kasich [official website] argues that the law was not an attempt to eliminate unions, but was aimed at restoring the balance and to help close the state's budget gap. Another proponent, Building a Better Ohio [advocacy website] argued that the law was necessary because public unions had grown too powerful and cuts were necessary for budget control [advocacy materials, PDF]. Conversely, advocacy group We Are Ohio [advocacy website] praised the election results, saying that the vote supported public employees [press release]. Kasich said he was unsure if he would try again to pass some aspects of SB 5.

The bill was passed in March, but was placed on referendum after opponents collected 915,456 signatures [JURIST reports] in July. Anti-union and anti-collective bargaining laws have been a major issue of controversy in the US this year. In July, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Idaho [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] blocking the enforcement of an Idaho anti-union law [SB 1007, PDF] that bans a union program that would subsidize employment for its members. In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives [official website] passed an amendment to their current budget that would require public employees to make concessions automatically [AP report] or become at-will employees. Earlier in March, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] limiting the rights of state workers to collectively bargain. Although the law was enjoined by judicial order, it has since been upheld [JURIST report] by the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website].

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