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Defenders of Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich's SB 5 bill, a measure that strips most collective bargaining rights for public workers, claim the legislation gives local governments "the flexibility they need to protect the public, while also keeping the maximum number of safety personnel on the job." SB 5, Kasich and his allies insist, will strengthen firehouses and police forces in cities and towns throughout the Buckeye State.
David Smith, the Republican mayor of Lancaster, Ohio, is calling BS. Smith recently laid off 15 firefighters in his city, but told the American Independent that SB 5 is far from the saving grace Kasich and Ohio Republicans make it about to be. Here's what Smith said:
"Senate Bill 5 doesn't save the day for anybody. It's still up to the local government to have a meaningful relationship with their bargaining units, which I think we do, here in Lancaster. In particular, both fire and police have taken zero-percent increases over the last two years without SB5 hanging over anyone's heads. Both fire and police [labor unions' bargaining units] had closed contracts, but they opened them up to allow us to work with them on a number of issues, not just salary."
What's ailing Lancaster, Ohio, and what forced the layoffs of those firefighters, Smith continued, wasn't out of whack pay and benefits. It was a 50 percent cut in state funding exacted by the Kasich administration, part of a wave of cuts whose impact Mother Jones' Mac McClelland depicted in this searing story. And although a slight increase in local income tax set to go into effect might help, Smith said Kasich's decision to do away with the estate tax in two years would also hit Lancaster's budget.
You can also watch Smith defend the importance of full collective bargaining rights before the House education and labor committee in March 2010: