State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, who has been in office for a year and two months, was walking down the corridor leading to the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee hearing room when he was greeted by applause and shouts of support and encouragement from the protesters of the bill that would end collective bargaining for state workers.
According to a veteran Republican politico who has been involved in state politics for a long time, Schiavoni, a lawyer who specializes in worker’s compensation and other labor issues, has emerged as the leader of the opposition to the bill. He has taken on the proponents with the precision of a trial lawyer, and his knowledge of Ohio’s labor laws has enabled him to frame the opponents’ arguments clearly and concisely.
As a result, Schiavoni has attracted the attention of state and local government workers from around Ohio, thereby establishing himself as one of the young stars of the state Democratic Party.
The push by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly to eliminate collective bargaining for state employees and reduce the rights of workers in local governments and school districts brought hundreds of protesters to Columbus. The opposition has been vocal and intense. The battle lines that have been drawn make it clear that passage of the bill and the governor’s signing it into law will not end the debate.
Indeed, organized labor can be expected to seek a statewide vote on the collective bargaining issue. And look for the Democrats to aim for November 2012 for the ballot initiative — which would coincide with the presidential election. Talk about boosting the turnout. Any misgivings Democrats may have about President Obama will be replaced by their desire to punish the Republicans for declaring war on organized labor.
State Sen. Schiavoni has emerged as a leader in the debate and can be expected to play a major role in selling the referendum next year — if Senate Bill 5 becomes law.