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Ohio law limiting public employee unions' power faces repeal

October 25, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • Pro-union protestors rally in Cleveland on April 4 in support of public employee collective bargaining rights. A November referendum asks voters if they want to undo the state law passed in the spring that forbids public employees from going on strike.
Pro-union protestors rally in Cleveland on April 4 in support of public… (Tony Dejak / Associated…)

Opposition to the Ohio law that limits the power of public employee unions has grown substantially in recent weeks, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday, offering a ray of hope to Democrats and their allies in organized labor as the presidential race heats up.

According to the poll, 57% of those surveyed said they would repeal the measure, known as a Senate Bill 5, while 32% said they would keep it. The difference between the two camps is almost double the 13-point gap last month. That growing spread is heartening for Democrats and labor as they move further into the 2012 election cycle during which Ohio is again a key battleground state.

On Nov. 8, Ohio voters will decide the fate of the law, which allows public employees to bargain for wages and working conditions but prohibits strikes. Workers will also have to pay for healthcare insurance and pensions. The law is on hold pending the referendum.

The Ohio law, backed by Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, is similar to laws pushed elsewhere by the GOP, which made limiting the reach of public employee unions part of their national program. One such effort sparked weeks of demonstrations in Wisconsin.

Democrats and labor unions have pushed back, and in Ohio the poll suggests that their efforts are bearing fruit. The law is opposed by a almost all demographic groups, including a majority of men and women, blacks and whites and those in non-union as well as union households. Only Republicans continue to support the law, according to the poll.

"Anything is possible in politics, but with such across-the-board support for repealing SB 5, the governor and his team can’t be optimistic about the fate of their law," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn., said in a statement.

Ohio voters said they supported requiring government employees to pay more toward healthcare and pensions but opposed banning them from striking and bargaining over insurance.

"Although the parts of the law that require public workers to contribute to their retirement and healthcare costs are popular with voters, the strong opposition to curtailing collective bargaining and seniority rights apparently is what seems to be carrying the day for the law's opponents. In the end, voters disagree, 57% to 34%, with Kasich’s argument that the limits on union power are needed to balance the budget,” Brown said.

The survey is based on interviews with 1,668 registered voters between Oct. 17 and 23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus  2.4 percentage points.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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