Ohio Referendum on Union Restrictions Is a Go After Kasich’s Gambit Fails

Ohio voters will decide whether to keep a law limiting collective bargaining for public employees after efforts by Ohio Governor John Kasich to strike a deal to get the measure off the ballot failed.

Midnight yesterday was the deadline to remove the referendum from the Nov. 8 ballot, and no action was taken, Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted, said by telephone from Columbus today. The campaign is on, Kasich said.

“We’re just going to go to November, and it’ll be a robust campaign on both sides, I’m sure,” Kasich, 59, a first-term Republican, said during an interview that aired today on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.”

We Are Ohio, a coalition of labor officials and Democrats, is ready for the fight to kill the measure, said the spokeswoman, Melissa Fazekas.

“We’re excited to give the 1.3 million people who signed a petition to repeal Senate Bill 5 an opportunity to vote ‘no’ in November,” Fazekas said in a telephone interview today from Columbus.

After Kasich signed the law March 31 that allows 360,000 public employees to negotiate only for wages, hours and work conditions and sets minimums for pension and health-care contributions, he has tried to negotiate a deal with the public unions to avoid a divisive ballot fight. Both sides have said they expect millions to be spent on the campaign.

Repeal First

The governor said he supported private discussions in June with labor leaders, and when those proved fruitless, he held news conferences Aug. 17 and Aug. 19 urging opponents to compromise. They refused unless Kasich and Republican legislative leaders first repealed the law.

The law, similar to one backed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that sparked days of protests at the Capitol in Madison and demonstrations in Columbus, is on hold pending the Nov. 8 vote.

Kasich said he worries about the impact that a “big battle” with public unions and repeal of the law might have.

“I get a little bit concerned about the brand of Ohio, because companies are always looking in terms of where they can have a workforce that works with them,” Kasich said.

The collective-bargaining law for public workers that has been in place in Ohio since 1983 has worked, and Kasich and Republicans pushed to change it, Fazekas said.

“This fight was brought to us,” she said. “This wasn’t something that employees, workers sought out.”

The law is needed to help governments control costs and is about “fairness to taxpayers,” Kasich told Bloomberg Television. Opponents of the law including We Are Ohio have said it is an overreach in an effort to bust unions and limit their support of Democratic candidates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus, Ohio, at mniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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