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Ohio labor-law foes say signature goal near

Wire • May 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM

A coalition of unions and other groups seeking to overturn Ohio's new law restricting public employee collective-bargaining power says they are well on their way to putting the issue on the ballot.

With more than a month to go before the June 30 deadline, We Are Ohio said Friday that it had gathered more than 214,000 signatures toward a minimum threshold of 231,149 valid signatures of registered voters.

Spokesman Melissa Fazekas said a review of a small sampling of those signatures shows a validation rate of 60 percent.

That would translate into roughly 130,000 of those signatures being able to withstand scrutiny by the secretary of state and county board of elections.

Fazekas said the group, which is using both volunteer and paid petitions circulators, plans to file 450,000 to 500,000 raw signatures to provide some breathing room.

Senate Bill 5, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law at the end of March, would, among other things, prohibit all public employee strikes, limit what can be discussed at the negotiating table, require workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, and prohibit local governments from picking up any of an employee's share of his pension contributions.

If We Are Ohio meets the June 30 deadline to file its petitions, the law would be placed on hold at least until the outcome of the Nov. 8 referendum is known.

Fazekas said there has been no sign yet of an organization being created to come to the defense of Senate Bill 5.

A poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut showed that, if the election were held now, 54 percent of registered voters would vote against the law compared to 36 percent who would support it.

The same poll, however, suggests voters do like some of the law's provisions, including requirements that public workers pay more for health care and pensions.

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Copyright (c) 2011, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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