TOLEDO, Ohio – A controversial measure that would have ended collective bargaining rights in the state of Ohio was soundly voted down on Tuesday night in a huge victory for union workers. The Republican-backed law would have restricted the collective bargaining power of nearly 350,000 government workers.

“That’s a good indication of what the citizens of Ohio are saying about the radical language put out by some of the Republican legislators,” said Kevin Dalton, the president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers.

Opponents of the bill, known as Senate Bill 5, gathered to celebrate at the Teamsters Hall in Toledo. Last spring, 8,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and others unionized Ohio workers crowded into the state capital in Columbus to protest the passage of the law.

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Just after 9 p.m., the Associated Press called the vote in favor of the opposition setting off wild celebrations across the state. With 63 percent of the vote in, 61.2 percent of voters rejected SB 5 compared to 38.8 percent in support it.

The highly unpopular law was passed on March 31 with solely Republican votes in the Ohio State House and signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich. House Democrats and other opponents were able to get enough signatures to force Tuesday’s vote.

Kasich became the face behind SB 5, leading a measure similar to the controversial one passed in Wisconsin earlier this year by State GOP members and Gov. Scott Walker. After accepting defeat, the first-term governor felt that maybe the measure was too much, too soon for Ohio.

“Maybe that was it,” Gov. Kasich told the Toledo Blade. “I don’t really know, except I know this: When you try to do big things, you must do a good job preparing the ground for people to understand what the issue is.”

“My view is when people speak like in a campaign referendum, you have to listen if you’re a public servant. There isn’t any question about that.”
Republican lawmakers took the loss especially hard. Backers of SB 5 felt it allowed job performance to be considered when determining compensation, rather than just awarding automatic pay raises based length of service.

“The sobering reality is that our massive budget challenges remain, for our schools, universities, and state and local governments,” said State Sen. Mark Wagoner. “I believed that Senate Bill 5 would have saved jobs and mitigated future layoffs of those who educate our kids and keep us safe.”

The measure’s defeat officially kills SB 5 as a whole, after it had been put on hold pending this vote. It is unknown whether certain parts of the bill, which included requiring public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health care and 10 percent of their paychecks toward their own pensions, would be up for a vote further down the line.

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“I’m not sure that we were offering them a solution to a problem that they didn’t think existed,’’ Kasich said. “I understand their decision and frankly I respect what people have to say. It requires me to take a deep breath and to spend some time reflecting on what happened here.’‘

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO spent the last week in Ohio rallying with Union workers. Collective bargaining for state workers in Ohio started in 1983, and they were not ready to give up that control in what was largely seen as an attack on the working man.

“They scapegoat public employees who are hard-working, honest-to-God (employees), and do a great job,’’ Trumka said. “They scapegoat to give more tax breaks to the people who caused this (mess). People are saying, ‘Enough. Enough. We’re not going to take that anymore’.”