All four corners at Front and Putnam Streets and part of the Putnam Bridge were lined Friday evening with people rallying against a bill that would end most collective bargaining for unionized state employees.
"We don't want to see the budget trying to be balanced on the backs of working families, and that's exactly what's going on as far as unions are concerned," said Kathleen Green, a field representative for the Southeastern Ohio AFL-CIO Council. "We're out not only fighting for union families, but working families as a whole."
Senate Bill 5 would not allow unionized state employees to bargain for benefits, sick time, vacation or other conditions. Initially, it would not allow them to collectively bargain for their wages, either, but Republican state senators announced Wednesday they planned to amend the bill to allow that.
No S.B. 5 rally
In exchange, they plan to insert a provision prohibiting any public employees, state or local, from striking.
Leaders of unions across the state representing teachers, public school employees, state troopers and other public workers say the bill is designed to eliminate the collective voice of employees. They say no amendments could make it acceptable.
Many of those at the rally in Marietta Friday echoed those opinions, saying they still aren't satisfied with the bill.
ASHLEY HILL The Marietta Times
Anita Vaughan, left, and Terri Long, right, members of the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO Local 772, hold signs showing their opposition to Senate Bill 5 during a rally in Marietta Friday evening.
"Even if public employees are still allowed to negotiate their wages, the benefits are going to get so out of control cost-wise for them, it doesn't matter what kind of wages they give them or are able to negotiate for themselves, anyways, so it's going to be awash," Green said.
Veto resident Anita Vaughan, an employee at Washington County Job and Family Services and a member of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO Local 772, said the modification was encouraging, but she's still not content.
"At least they're listening, and that's good," she said. "But they still would not allow collective bargaining for benefits and that sort of thing, and that just seems totally out of place."
Not all of those at the rally were unionized state employees. Some, like Marietta resident Jim Rapp, were there for moral support.
"They're just normal, middle class folks trying to make a living, and the fact that we have a governor that's assaulting them and insulting them - I just couldn't stand for it," he said. "I don't ever remember (Gov.) John Kasich saying he was going to get rid of collective bargaining with public employees when he campaigned - I think he's pulled a dirty trick on the state of Ohio."
Local attorney Eric Fowler, a member of UAW Local 2320, (National Organization of Legal Services Workers), called the bill a "political move".
"I don't see where cutting out collective bargaining really has anything do with balancing Ohio's budget right now," he said.
A state Senate panel is likely to vote on the legislation next week.
The Associated Press contributed.