Protests grow louder in Ohio, Indiana
Protesters rally last week at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus against a bill curbing public workers' collective-bargaining rights.
March 1st, 2011
01:36 PM ET

Protests grow louder in Ohio, Indiana

As Wisconsin's pro-union protests rage, a huge crowd in Ohio is gathering Tuesday for the event "Rally to Save Ohio's Middle Class." The movement, which reportedly could draw 20,000 people, is being documented live on Facebook. The AFL-CIO also is tweeting the event.

Protesters are demanding lawmakers drop a bill that would end Ohio public employees' right to collective bargaining. An Ohio Senate committee has said it will revise and vote this week on the legislation that would affect about 350,000 state workers, teachers, public safety employees and others.

And in Indiana, lawmakers have stooped to name-calling in a debate that pits union forces against legislators who want to undo union rights.

Are you in the middle of any of it? Send an iReport.

Though the stakes are different in each state, what is clear is that a fight in Wisconsin has ballooned into a huge national debate pitting Republicans against Democrats. President Barack Obama voiced his support for public workers Monday, and the liberal activist group Moveon.org has been staging demonstrations across the nation in support of unions.

The debate is loaded with nuance and complexity, and informed by the history of unionizing in the United States, Slate points out. USA Today analyzed the numbers and on Tuesday reported that Wisconsin is one of 41 states where public workers earn higher average pay and benefits than private workers in the same state.

The Columbus, Ohio, City Council opposes legislation in its state because members say it would hurt families, CNN affiliate WBNS-TV in Columbus reported. The council said it wants more discussion on ways to fix the state budget shortfall.

"We want to sit across from our police officers and our firefighters," council member Zach Klein told WBNS. "We want them to know that we're supporting our teachers and other working families, to have an arms-length, reasonable conversation about wages and benefits, and that's exactly what collective bargaining has done."

In Mahoning County, Ohio, Democrat David Betras decried the bill as an "assault on middle class values," according to CNN affiliate WKBN-TV in Youngstown. He told the station, "It puts political patronage and cronyism back into our public employees. We want to keep that out. Public employees do a good job. ..."

E-mails from as far away as Germany and Scotland have been flooding the offices of House members, The Columbus Dispatch said. One office reported receiving more than 10,000 e-mails, according to the paper.

Protesting hasn't gotten as heated as the political rhetoric in Indiana. Lawmakers started the week by meeting behind closed doors at an Urbana hotel to negotiate legislation. It went downhill quickly.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, a Gary Democrat, called Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma a "windbag," CNN affiliate WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reported. "He's a 6-foot-4, 230-pound windbag," Brown said. "He doesn't know how to negotiate. He doesn't know how to move his ego aside and get down to the nitty-gritty."

Brown told the station that Bosma had "backed himself into a corner" and "doesn't know how to fight his way out of it." Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels referred to Democrats spending time in the hotel's pool and hot tub, WRTV reported.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has threatened massive layoffs if his bill limiting collective-bargaining rights for public-sector employees doesn't pass. The bill also would force public workers to cover more of their retirement plans and health care premiums. Watch Walker discuss the bill and the state's projected $3.6 billion budget gap by 2013. Wisconsin's 14 Democratic senators have left the state and gone to Illinois to prevent a quorum of 20 votes needed for the budget repair bill to pass.

Passage of the bill would limit collective bargaining to wages. Any pay increases beyond the rate of inflation would be subject to voter approval.

Pro-union forces say the governor is trying to curb long-held labor rights under the guise of fiscal responsibility.

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Filed under: Illinois • Indiana • Ohio • Protest • Wisconsin
soundoff (1,061 Responses)
  1. Denman

    For all of you PRO UNION folks out there, I have one question: How are we supposed to pay the bills? Too many people have been sucking on the public teat for too long and the waiter just left the check on the table. (Actually, it's been there for years, but everyone has been passing it around...) Now we're faced with bloated government, enormous pension liabilities, health care costs beyond comprehension, etc. So I ask you again: WHO'S GOING TO PAY THE BILL? I suggest you all stop screaming at one another and start working together to solve this dilemma, cuz it ain't gonna fix itself.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      Well, for starters we can remove the lines in Walker's bill that allows him to sell our power plants without getting bids so we get more money for them instead of selling them cheap to his top contributors.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mark chapman

    Unions should be changed, these people should pay more people more of their healthcare. I'm tired of paying for it. I have to pay for my own

    March 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Alientech

    These thugs are government employees who supposedly work for us? Maybe they should start appreciating their jobs a little more while they have them.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      My wife, the public school teacher in Wisconsin is 5'4" and weighs 112 lbs. Pretty scary, huh?

      March 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alex

    This is all part of the GOP's plan to bring back slavery! Step one, create a class of haves and have-not's, step two, put them to work doing slave labor!

    March 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • FIGHTUSA

      It's not "the GOP"... it's a very elite set of powerbase in U.S.A. reneging after years of exploiting baby boomer workforce. The fight is on. This is where the "rubber meets the road." DO NOT BACK DOWN. DEMAND COURT REFORMS so the weak have a voice in our courts. Courts are being used to steal equity too.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. FIGHTUSA

    FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS PEOPLE. YOU EARNED THEM. DON'T LET SCVMBAGS TAKE THEM AWAY AND RENEG.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. socal frank

    Koch Industries is not only the second largest private company in America, it is the most politically active. Koch groups have spent tens of millions to influence government policy — from financing the Tea Parties, to funding junk academic studies, to undisclosed attack ads against Democrats, to groups promoting climate change denial, to a large network of state-based and national think tanks. Koch groups are providing the political muscle for Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) union-busting power grab. The Koch political machine is geared towards “crony capitalism” — corrupting government to make Charles and his brother David Koch richer. Koch’s Tea Party libertarianism is actually a thin veneer for the company’s long running history of winning special deals from the government and manipulating the market to pad Koch profits:
    – The dirty secret of Koch Industries is its birth under the centrally-planned Soviet Union. Fred Koch, the founder of the company and father of David and Charles, helped construct fifteen oil refineries for Joseph Stalin before expanding the business in the United States.
    Georgia Pacific, a timber company subsidiary of Koch Industries, uses taxpayer money provided by the U.S. Forestry Service to provide their loggers with taxpayer-funded roads and access to virgin growth forests. Koch’s cattle ranching company, Matador Cattle Company, uses a New Deal program to profit off federal land for free.
    The Bush administration handed Koch Industries a lucrative contract to supply the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve with 8 million barrels of crude oil. During the occupation of Iraq, Koch won significant contracts to buy Iraqi crude oil.
    – Although Koch campaigned vigorously against health reform — running attack ads, sponsoring anti-health reform Tea Parties, and comparing health reform to the Holocaust — Koch Industries applied for health reform subsidies made possible by the Obama administration.
    Koch Industries lobbies aggressively for taxpayer handouts. In Alaska, a Koch subsidiary asked Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration to use taxpayer money to bail out one of their failing refineries.
    Koch Industries will reap huge profits from the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which runs from Koch-owned tar sands mining centers in Canada to Koch-owned refineries in Texas. To build the pipeline, politicians throughout the Midwest, many of whom have received large Koch campaign donations, have used eminant domain — government seizures of private land. In Kansas, where Koch-funded officials advise Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and the Republican legislature, the Keystone XL Pipeline is likely to receive a property tax exemption of ten years, a special loophole that will cost Kansas taxpayers about $50 million.
    – Koch Industries has been the recipient of about $85 million in federal government contracts mostly from the Department of Defense. Koch also benefits directly from billions in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and ethanol production.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • socal frank

      It's essential that we cut the salaries and benefits of public employees so that the Koch Brothers can get billions in tax breaks and government subsidies. After all, buying congressmen, governors, and senators ain't cheap.

      March 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hdrake

    Unions dont seem to get it. The States are bankrupt, our country are bankrupt. If you care so much for this country then you need to tighten your belt like everone else.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Everyman

    The rich are laughing at you all. They will remain rich and you'll fight with each other as to who's fault it is. Good job America at going down the path of failure. Let's all work harder and for less money so the rich can afford more yachts and priivate jets and mansions.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. sassypants

    I have spent all of my life working in the private sector and have worked at several companies in my time. I have never had any job security. I am middle class and it angers me to see the these people do what they are doing. They do not represent me or my family. I am capable of making a good income which brings in good tax revenue but I will not do it unless this garbage stops!! I will not support union bosses and members who abuse the taxpayer with no regard to who butters their bread!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. BrilliantEcho

    I’m a recovering Democrat. I agree entirely with Mr. Walker, and his campaign to rid the public sector of collective bargaining. To think that my (non-union) income tax dollars would in part go to support a self-serving unionized group, who in turn uses this money to try and win MORE of my tax dollars, is unsettling. I am very pleased that this has come to light in the media, and is partly why I am now a former Democrat. The governor was fairly elected. As I understand it, the man has held his principle, and is taking bold and decisive action, when historically politicians have been chided for inaction. I used to have nothing but support for unions, but with so much that I have heard about how the union machines work, particularly in the case of public sector unions using MY money to support their agenda (even to get more money from ME), I give up on them, and the Democrat party. Mr. Walker, more power to you, sir!

    March 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Upperhand

    Unions and Employers are both G-R-E-E-D-Y, Unions at the expense of members and BIG million dollar corporations at the expense of employees.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Down with Unions

    This is fantastic! The time of unions really must come to an end. Like other outdated concepts, unions have served their purpose and now its time for a new iteration of worker-emplyer relations: one perhaps based on merit? Unionists speaking is almost as difficult to listen to as right-wing Evangelicals: complete and utter nonsense. Unions protect largetly under-educated individuals in overaid jobs. Let capitalism function as the American founding fathers intended: with resources flowing to the most efficient and profitable use. If you are worried about your job, go to school.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. scott

    its a shame our country forgets we are a union of states

    March 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Peggy Ledbetter

    I am appalled at the misrepresentation of facts that those that malign and disparage our public workers spew. I will give you some thoughts and facts on teachers. All teachers have at least 4 years of college, most have graduate degrees. Compare 5 or 6 year college graduate degree employees' salaries in the public and private sectors, making sure their years of employment are the same. I really doubt that the public employee's salary is more than the private sector employee's salary.
    But I do have one fact. Teacher A with a Master's Degree and 24 years teaching exprience makes $5,600 a month gross. Three hundred a month in pension benefits is taken out of the salary, as is $250 in health insurance costs along with Federal, state and Medicare taxes. The teacher does not get any pension benefit until she/he turns 65 years of age or has taught 30 years. And then the retirement pension is @ half the employment salary. Health insurance cost is fairly low because the State uses this huge group of employees to leaverage concessions and lower costs from the health insurance companies. Group insurance costs less than single payer insurance, and the larger the group, the lower the costs.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. wguthrie

    How about some reality. Unions are not the problem. Public employees are underpaid, not overpaid. Most of them work much harder than any corporate bigwig would ever work. They have already made concessions on wages, benefits, and pensions. What they object to is losing the right to bargain collectively. And, yes, we still need unions. You don't have to look far to see how non-union employees get treated.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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