Ballot War in Ohio Follows Union Reform Law

Friday, 01 Apr 2011 01:53 PM

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A union-led effort is already under way to throw out the collective bargaining overhaul that Ohio's Republican governor signed into law on Thursday night, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reports.

Opponents of the new law, which curbs unionized state workers' bargaining rights, said they plan to get a repeal measure on the ballot in November.

"This is going to be a very big campaign," said Dennis Willard, a spokesman for the newly formed pro-repeal group We Are Ohio. The group has heavy labor and Democratic backing but is trying to position itself as a stand-alone campaign in order to attract support, and money, from those who dislike the law even if they're not Democrats.

Dale Butland, a political consultant to unions, already predicted that his side will be outspent by business interests capable of raising more than $20 million to defeat a repeal measure.

"Obviously, to the unions and the to Democrats, this is an existential threat," he said. "On the other side, there will be corporate money flooding into this place."

ballot, war, union, law, ohioGov. John Kasich's re-election campaign has already sent out one fundraising e-mail touting the new law "because it strips power from the union leaders and returns it to the taxpayers and workers."

Supporters of so-called Senate Bill 5 have launched a website,, to counter union claims. But the president of Ohio's Chamber of Commerce President, Andrew Doehrel, cast doubt on the $20 million figure, saying, "You can do a heck of a statewide campaign for 6 to 8 million dollars.""

In 1997, organized labor got voters to overturn a law changing Ohio's workers' compensation system. But Doehrel said collective bargaining is a less technical issue and more easily framed, and understood, by voters concerned about the cost of government.

The debate over Ohio' new law, like Wisconsin's, is expected to become a proxy fight in fall elections across the country. The national conservative group, FreedomWorks, announced in March that it plans to spend $5.6 million in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere to support collective bargaining reform measures in the fall elections.

We Are Ohio has 90 days to gather 231,147 valid voter signatures to get a repeal measure on the ballot.

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