By Marc Kovac
Union leaders will not take Gov. John Kasich up on his offer to meet in Columbus and negotiate a potential compromise to remove Senate Bill 5 from the November ballot.
Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, said Thursday the controversial collective- bargaining law would have to be repealed in its entirety before opponents would sit down with the administration and Republican legislative leaders.
“While we thank the governor, Senate president and Speaker of the House for reaching out and recognizing that the bill is flawed, we are asking for a fresh start,” she said in a released statement. “That fresh start must begin with a full repeal of Senate Bill 5.”
Rob Nichols, spokesman for Kasich, said the governor, House Speaker Bill Batchelder and Senate President Tom Niehaus planned to be on hand for this morning meeting in case union officials decide to attend.
But he said a repeal of the legislation would not be part of the negotiations.
“That’s like saying you’ll buy a lottery ticket but that you want to receive your award check first,” Nichols said in a released statement. “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the anti-SB 5 campaign also saying that no labor contracts should ever be renewed until after existing ones are first repealed?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.”
Kasich and the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate announced Wednesday they were willing to meet with “the government- employee union leaders of We Are Ohio” to negotiate an agreement to keep Issue 2, the repeal of Senate Bill 5, off the November ballot.
The three said they were willing to move quickly on any potential compromise, including bringing lawmakers back into session this month to pass legislation if necessary.
But We Are Ohio, which collected more than 900,000 valid signatures on petitions to force the November referendum, and the leaders of Ohio’s largest labor unions quickly made it clear they were not willing to begin talks with the administration until after lawmakers repealed Senate Bill 5 outright.
“The Ohio AFL-CIO attempted dialogue during the legislative process and was denied that opportunity,” Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said in a released statement. “Since the bill passed and was signed into law, the Ohio AFL-CIO has been clear that if SB 5 is repealed in its entirety, we would be willing to address any concerns that the governor and the Legislature have with the collective-bargaining law. This is our position and will remain our position throughout this campaign.”
We Are Ohio sent letters to Kasich, Batchelder and Niehaus on Thursday echoing those sentiments.