COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A group seeking to roll back an Ohio law limiting the negotiating powers of 350,000 unionized public workers reiterated Thursday that it will only consider negotiating a compromise with the governor if the bill is repealed.
We Are Ohio campaign director A.J. Stokes asked for a fresh start in a letter to Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP legislative leaders, which followed the governor's call Wednesday for union leaders to join him Friday to discuss striking a deal that would remove a repeal question from the Nov. 8 ballot. The deadline for doing so is Aug. 30.
"A complete repeal would go a long way toward creating an environment for compromise, restoring trust in government by the electorate and setting the table for meaningful negotiations about creating jobs, rebuilding Ohio's economy and moving the state forward," Stokes wrote.
House Democratic Leader Armond Budish followed up by calling upon House Speaker William Batchelder and Senate President Tom Niehaus to reconvene the Legislature, which is on summer recess, to repeal the measure known as Senate Bill 5. Batchelder told reporters earlier this week that he would not have a problem asking members to return to repeal the bill. "They want to do something here. And they'll be back."
Batchelder didn't know what process the other side would want, but said, "Whatever we have to do to get it done."
But Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the pro-union coalition has the process backward. "That's like saying you'll buy a lottery ticket but that you want to receive your award check first," Nichols said. "Is the anti-SB 5 campaign also saying that no labor contracts should ever be renewed until after existing ones are first repealed? Of course not. We're confident that there are reasonable folks who understand the value of restarting the negotiations that labor unfortunately pulled out from earlier and we look forward to talking with them on Friday."
The game of political chicken comes as both sides prepare for a fall ballot fight whose price tag could top the $33 million spent in the 2010 governor's race.
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, whom Kasich defeated in that race, said ahead of a scheduled Thursday appearance on MSNBC that he believes Kasich was disingenuous in offering to talk. Strickland said in an interview with The Associated Press that Kasich "acted like a bully" when he came into office in January, including threatening to run opponents over with a bus, and now people will have trouble trusting him to negotiate in good faith.
During his MSNBC appearance, Strickland told the Rev. Al Sharpton that Kasich's offer to discuss a compromise was "too little, too late."
"We're going to turn back this horrible legislation, and we're going to speak loudly and clearly" in November, Strickland said. Kasich was scheduled to give the weekly Republican national address Saturday. The appearance was announced by House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday.
Letter to Governor Kasich: http://www.weareohio.com/Downloads/Kasich.pdf
Letter to Speaker of the House Batchelder: http://www.weareohio.com/Downloads/Batchelder.pdf
Letter to Senate President Niehaus: http://www.weareohio.com/Downloads/Niehaus.pdf