Mitch Andrews / Lantern Photographer
A dense crowd formed around the east and south sides of the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday afternoon to protest a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for state workers.
As of 1:40 p.m., the doors remained locked and protesters stood outside chanting, “Let us in.”
“We are willing to stand out here to talk,” said Steve Nash, a firefighter from Solon, Ohio, standing in 27-degree weather and light snow. “And if (Gov. John Kasich) is not willing to come out, then that proves why we need collective bargaining.”
Nash, 46, traveled with others about 160 miles from Northeast Ohio on Tuesday to protest Senate Bill 5.
Garry Nemeth, another Solon firefighter representing Local 2079, said they were here to protest what they say is “an assault on unions, an assault on collective bargaining and an assault on the middle class.”
Another protester, Bernard Ravasio of Steubenville in eastern Ohio, traveled two and a half hours to “stand up for middle class families and workers.”
“They wouldn’t want to stop at public sector employees,” said the 61-year-old member of United Steel Workers. “They would want to go into the private sector later.”
Senate Bill 5 would eliminate the collective-bargaining abilities of state workers and replace them with a merit-based system. Negotiating power of police officers, firefighters and teachers would be restricted. Police and firefighters still would not be able to strike. Teachers could still go on strike — but schools would be able to hire permanent replacements.
Republicans tout the bill as an effective way to create jobs and “set the table for economic growth.”
“We have to give local government officials a way to be more efficient and more effective in the delivery of services,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Monday night in an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer, “and we have to give them the flexibility they need to manage their costs, including labor.”
Democrats, on the other hand, call the bill a direct attack on the middle class, saying it will be a detriment to public servants.
“Senate Bill 5 … would strip away collective bargaining rights, hurt the middle class, kill jobs and destroy communities,” former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland wrote in a blog post Saturday on the Ohio Democratic Party website. “This fight … (is) about whether or not we will be a state that stands up for the middle class.”