(AP) CLEVELAND – Gov. John Kasich on Thursday signed into law a limit on the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers, defying Democrats and other opponents of the measure who have promised to push for repeal.
His signature came a day after the measure was approved by the state House and Senate, which are led by his fellow Republicans.
The measure prompted weeks of pro-labor protests by thousands of people amid a national debate over union rights, keyed by a similar bill passed in Wisconsin and signed by the governor there.
The 350,000 public workers covered under the law can still negotiate wages and certain work conditions – but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. The measure also does away with automatic pay raises and bases future wage increases on merit.
It applies to teachers, nurses and many other government workers, including police and firefighters, who were exempt in the Wisconsin measure.
Kasich, a first-term governor, has said his $55.5 billion state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. He and his GOP colleagues argue the bill will help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they too are feeling budget woes.
Democrats opposed the measure but offered no amendments to it. Instead, they delivered boxes containing more than 65,000 opponent signatures to the House labor committee’s chairman.
Many Democrats, along with other opponents, have vowed to lead a ballot-repeal effort if the measure passes. Backers of a ballot challenge have 90 days after Kasich signs the bill to gather 231,148 valid signatures from at least half Ohio’s 88 counties to get it on the ballot.
The bill signing comes two days after a House labor committee added GOP-backed revisions that make it more difficult for unions to collect certain fees.
The committee changed the bill to ban automatic deductions from employee paychecks that would go the unions’ political arm. They also altered the measure to prevent nonunion employees affected by contracts from paying so-called “fair share” fees to union organizations.
Unions argue that their contracts cover those nonunion workers and that letting them not pay unfairly spreads the costs to dues-paying members.
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