COLUMBUS, Ohio — Labor stronghold Ohio assumed center stage Wednesday in the fight over collective bargaining rights for public workers as the state Legislature passed a bill that was in some ways tougher than that seen in Wisconsin and sent it to the governor.
Amid shouts and jeers in both chambers, the House passed a measure affecting 350,000 public workers on a 53-44 vote, and the Senate followed with a 17-16 vote of approval. Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign the bill by the end of the week.
Senate President Tom Niehaus threatened to clear the chamber ahead of final legislative action on the bill as pro-labor protesters shouted insults at senators and threatened to unseat them in the next election.
Chants of "Shame on you!" filled the elegant, high-ceilinged chambers where legislators are accustomed to hushed tones and self-imposed decorum.
Unlike Wisconsin's measure, the Ohio legislation would extend union restrictions to police officers and firefighters.
But the overall response by protesters in the Rust Belt state, despite its long union tradition among steel and auto workers, has paled in comparison to Wisconsin, where protests topped more than 70,000 people. Ohio's largest Statehouse demonstrations on the measure drew about 8,500 people.
That difference has been attributed to Madison's labor legacy and the proximity of the populous University of Wisconsin campus to the state capital.
On Wednesday, an estimated 700 people went to the Ohio Statehouse to hear the debate.
The Ohio measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It gets rid of automatic pay increases, and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.
Democrats, including former Gov. Ted Strickland, and unions have vowed to mount a campaign to overturn the measure through a referendum in November.
Kasich has said his $55.5 billion, two-year state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. The first-term governor and his GOP colleagues argue the bill would help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they, too, are feeling budget woes.