I have to admit I really thought the Republicans in the House would end up making some real changes to SB5 in an attempt to mollify the public safety unions. Nothing looks worse for Republicans than having a bunch of tough-looking police officers and fire fighters marching on the Statehouse with their drums and bagpipes blasting.
The teachers are certainly the loudest protesters and I’d argue they make the best (and most grammatically correct) signs – but when it comes down to images politicians absolutely don’t want to see on TV, it’s got to be a bunch of red-blooded American fire fighters and police officers chanting protest slogans.
It looks really bad.
So I figured the GOP would want to avoid seeing any more if these images on TV. And I also thought they would try to break up the coalition of labor groups fighting SB5 by trying to carve out an agreement for some of the groups. Police and Fire seemed like the obvious target. But I guess the Republicans in the House figured their carve-out amendments would have been too little, too late anyway, or maybe they realized that it would have completely discredited their already flimsy argument that SB5 is about the budget. Either way, they didn’t bother.
The only change they did make was to allow public safety unions to collectively bargain for safety equipment, but they still are unable to bargain for staffing levels. According to one fire fighter I met at the Statehouse today, this change means they can now bargain for an additional fire engine, but they’ll end up sending it out the door with one guy manning it. He made it clear that fire fighters are even more angry and fired up now and they are ready to start working on a referendum.
FOP President Jim Gilbert had even harsher words to say about the revised bill. “These changes are not good changes and don’t address our concerns,” said Gilbert. “They have added a few flowers to the pile of garbage called SB5”
The Republicans may have enough votes to push this legislation through the General Assembly, but labor groups are standing together and they are fired up. At today’s rally I saw teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers and corrections officers standing side-by-side with members the Teamsters, the UAW and SEIU – and every single one of them was talking about a referendum on SB5.
John Kasich may end up signing SB5, but if Ohioans have their say – and it seems very likely they will – the bill will never become law.
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