SHEFFIELD — More than 300 educators and supporters crammed into the United Auto Workers hall off Abbe Road with one mission Monday night: “Kill the bill.”
That bill is Ohio Senate Bill 5, which would reduce collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. The people gathered Monday night to set their sights on convincing their state senator, Gayle Manning, a former teacher for 37 years, to vote down the down.
“What we want Gayle to do is remember where she came from,” said Airica Clay, labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association.
Union representatives and Sheffield Mayor John Hunter, a former union official, took to the podium inside the UAW hall to denounce the bill, with Hunter likening it to fights labor has had in the past, including air traffic controllers struggling with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and Greyhound transit worker strikes in the ’80s and ’90s.
Chants of “Kill the bill” were shouted in unison as each speaker fired up the crowd. Afterward, a petition was available for people to sign that will be hand- delivered by education association representatives who are meeting with Manning in Columbus to discuss the bill. More than 1,000 signatures had already been collected from rallies covering the three districts Manning represents in Lorain, Huron and Erie counties, Clay said.
Manning, R-North Ridgeville, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday, but said last week she was unsure how she’ll vote.
She said she sees both sides of the issue, and while she was a former union member as a teacher, she said that doesn’t mean she always agrees with what unions — including her own union — have done.
Manning said one of the key portions of the bill that appeals to her is one that would make negotiations between government leaders and public employees more transparent.
The bill, championed by Republican Gov. John Kasich as a way to ease state budget woes, originally called for all collective bargaining by state employees to be banned, but Republican senators have since agreed to modify it to allow unions to negotiate for wages. Unions would not be able to bargain for benefits, sick time, vacation or other conditions, however.
Although the bill affects all public employees, educators make up the majority of that group, according to Kristin Peterson, who teaches at Lorain County Joint Vocational School.
Peterson said that of the 358,276 public employees indentified in the bill, nearly 55 percent of them are educators.
She said the bill also creates a number of new positions to oversee the changes, which means any money saved by changing collective bargaining rights would go into those salaries.
“The money is going other places, so you’re not seeing savings,” she said.
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