Ohio governor continues push to preserve union law

Published 9:45 am Monday, October 24, 2011

SHARONVILLE (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich told supporters that claims of teachers losing their pensions under Ohio’s contested new union law were “baloney,” as he held his sixth rally in support of the measure.

Kasich told the group of about 200 supporters who showed up at the Sharonville Convention Center on Saturday that the collective bargaining law will save and create jobs and make Ohio more attractive to businesses, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“We’re never going to fix Ohio by somehow thinking we just tax people and that’s a replacement for creating jobs,” he said. “The way we’re going to fix Ohio is to give companies a reason to come here and grow their businesses.”

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Among other changes, the Ohio law bans public worker strikes and limits the collective bargaining abilities of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. Workers could negotiate on wages, but not on their pension or health care benefits. Voters will decide its fate on the November ballot.

In opposition to the law and the governor’s appearance, 35 protesters gathered outside of the convention center, holding up signs with messages such as “Where are the jobs, John Kasich?” and “Stop the War on Workers.”

Protesters included three Occupy Cincinnati demonstrators who told the newspaper that they came straight from jail after they’d refused to leave an occupied downtown park on Friday night after it had closed.

Ken Zinnecker, a local teacher, said he isn’t opposed to looking at changing parts of the way collective bargaining works in Ohio, but doesn’t think the system should be scrapped altogether.

“It’s egregious to scrap a system that’s worked for so long, and continues to work in most instances, just because the governor wants to save money on the backs of working, middle-class people,” he said.

Kasich was joined by fellow Republicans — Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, Colerain Township Fiscal Officer Heather Harlow — and former Democratic Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding.

Hartmann told the crowd, which was preparing to go door-to-door in Hamilton County over the weekend, that the county is looking at cutting 30 percent of its budget in the next year.

“While we’re making those cuts, due to the current system that exists, we’ve got to give raises to employees while we’re making layoffs in the same exact budget,” he said. “The system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.”