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Ohio Voters Repeal Collective Bargaining Law


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning. We're at the point of the election cycle sometimes called the off-off year. Not many offices were up for grabs but yesterday, some high-profile measures were on state ballots.

INSKEEP: And just a year after huge Republican election wins, some Republican measures suffered setbacks yesterday. That includes the state of Ohio, which elected a Republican governor last year. This year, voters repealed a law the governor signed limiting the collective-bargaining rights of public workers. Bill Cohen, of Ohio Public Radio, has more.

BILL COHEN, BYLINE: The margin was wide - 61 percent Ohio voters calling for repeal. The new law's provisions included a ban on public employees striking, a requirement that all of them pay at least 15 percent of health-care premiums, and allowing management to have the final word in long-running labor impasses. Unions and their allies forced the referendum by collecting 900,000 valid petition signatures of registered voters.


COHEN: A firefighters' drum and bagpipe corps helped the repeal forces celebrate their victory last night. Cincinnati fireman Doug Sterns.

DOUG STERNS: People have stood up and said, do not treat our public employees this way. We respect our firefighters; we respect our police officers, our teachers, our nurses, our bus drivers, the people that work at our schools, the people that plow our streets.

COHEN: When Republican John Kasich was elected Ohio's new governor last November, he said special interests better get on his legislative bus to cut government costs and taxes or, in his words, get run over. As government workers cheered the repeal of the new law, teacher Courtney Johnson fired Kasich's quip back at him.

COURTNEY JOHNSON: Governor Kasich, it appears your bus had wrecked spectacularly.


COHEN: Governor Kasich is often called brash, but he wasn't that way as the votes poured in to repeal one of his top priorities.

GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: You know, my view is when people speak in a campaign like this, in a referendum, you have to listen when you're a public servant. They might have said it was too much, too soon.

COHEN: The governor said he's going to take a breath, and let this issue sit a while so he can reassess things. But he and his allies, Republican leaders of the legislature, did not rule out a scenario that's been floated for months now - having legislators come back next year and re-enact some parts of the controversial law that voters have told pollsters they actually like. One example: that requirement that all public employees pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums.

For now, though, unions and their allies are basking in their big win. They're hoping voter repeal of collective-bargaining limits in a bellwether state like Ohio will send a message to other states considering similar limits: The voters won't stand for it. For NPR News, I'm Bill Cohen in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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