Anti-SB 5 tour stops in Valley

We Are Ohio campaign draws dozens to rally against Issue 2

By David Skolnick


Opponents of state Issue 2, which restricts some collective-bargaining rights for public employees, rolled into Youngstown as part of a statewide bus tour urging voters to reject the Nov. 8 ballot issue.

We Are Ohio, the lead organization opposing Issue 2, stopped Thursday at Oakhill Renaissance Place, the location of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, as part of what’s called “The People’s Road Trip.”

About 70 local people, including several union officials, participated in the rally.

Doug Stern, a Cincinnati firefighter featured in We Are Ohio’s first television commercial, said that Issue 2 is “unsafe, unfair and will hurt us all.”

The Republican-controlled state Legislature approved the collective-bargaining changes in Senate Bill 5 earlier this year. Opponents collected signatures to place the measure on the November ballot for repeal.

Issue 2 takes away the rights of firefighters to negotiate items such as safety equipment and manpower, Stern said.

“We can’t rescue someone with two firefighters on a truck,” he said. “We need firefighters. That’s the ultimate safety issue.”

Those at the rally were encouraged to vote early at the elections board. About 25 of them did Thursday.

Ron Gay, who works for AT&T in Youngstown and is a Communications Workers of America Local 4300 union member, was among the early voters.

“I voted [Thursday] to get it out of the way,” he said. “I wanted to get it done. People have busy lives. I don’t have to worry about possibly not being able to vote” on Nov. 8.

While Gay isn’t in a public-employee union, he said he has “a lot of family members” who are.

“Taking people’s rights away doesn’t solve problems,” he added.

If approved by voters, the law would place limits on collective bargaining, changing the way more than 350,000 public workers have negotiated contract terms for nearly three decades. The law would prohibit strikes and enables state and local governments and schools to base employee pay decisions on performance.

It also would require government employees to pay at least 15 percent of the cost of their health-care premiums.

“We’re talking about fundamental fairness, and this bill takes that away,” said Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. T.J. Assion, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141.

Supporters say the changes will help public entities better control costs.

“Those who oppose Issue 2 are relying on scare tactics,” said county Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe. “They’re trying to scare people to vote against Issue 2. This is simply a way to gain control over the costs of public employees.”

Munroe pointed to Stern’s commercial, saying it “tries to leave the impression that there will be dead police officers and firefighters in the street” if the issue is approved.

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