Thousands Of Ohioans Rally For, Against Senate Bill 5

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Union protesters and tea party activists descended on the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday in opposing shows of force as senators heard more testimony on a bill that would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. Ohio is facing an estimated $8 billion deficit, and Republican Gov. John Kasich has said union labor costs must be reined in.

At times, groups of school children touring the statehouse found it hard to make their way through the crowds of people rallying in support of and in opposition to Senate Bill Five. In the rotunda, a woman carrying a protest sign was heckled by another.

“No signs in the building,” she said.

Police on horseback patrolled High Street outside as an overflow crowd listened to the Senate proceedings on loudspeakers. By the sheer numbers of people wearing red “Vote No” t-shirts and by the frequent outbursts of “kill the bill” it was clear that opponents – at least on the lawn — outnumbered supporters.

Greg Pegues of Columbus identified himself as a former state worker. He recalls taking pay cuts and concessions, he says, to help the state get by.

“Now they want to take it out on the state workers,” Pegues says. “We work hard every day. I’m saying “no” to the bill because it’s not fair to the state employees who work hard.” Bonnie Walsh from Portage County held a sign in favor of the bill. She says she supports police officers and firefighters, but believes that their salaries ought to be based on merit ‘like the private sector.’