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SB 5 Passes Ohio Senate After Republicans Reconfigure Committees

Senate Bill 5, which will limit most collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, bar all strikes under penalty of law, and ban binding arbitration, just passed the Ohio State Senate by one vote, 17-16. Republicans have a 23-10 hold on the State Senate, and six of them dropped off this anti-union bill. But they were just able to get enough support for passage.

In order to make it work, Ohio Republicans had to shuffle two committees to ensure they had the votes to pass the bill out. They had to take Bill Zeitz off the Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee to get the bill out of there. Then, they had to yank Scott Oelslager off the Rules Committee to avoid a deadlock there. The bill, which is close to 100 pages long, passed both committees and the State Senate in a single day, just one day after a new set of amendments were publicly released.

Needless to say, the tactics used to pass this bill out of the Senate show how divisive it has become. Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga released this statement:

Today is a sad day for Ohio’s middle class. With the passage of Senate Bill 5, Ohio Senators have shown they would rather push a partisan agenda to punish the middle class than work on solutions to our jobs crisis.

The amended version of the original bill is only smoke and mirrors. This bill remains an assault on the middle class because the foundation of this bill is still rooted in a broader anti-worker agenda. You can’t fix something that was already broken from the start.

The bill now moves to the Ohio House, which is also strongly Republican, but where the bill may also run into some trouble. Ohio Republicans have proven themselves agile at finding work-arounds, however. If the bill becomes law, you can expect court challenges and possibly even a referendum petition to put the law to a vote of the people. If that happens, given the current poll numbers on collective bargaining, you could see a resounding defeat in Ohio for Gov. John Kasich’s agenda. And of course, this is always a battleground state in 2012, and this fight has energized the youth/labor/progressive coalition.

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David Dayen

David Dayen