We Are Ohio No Show At SB 5 Negotiation Invitation

It wasn’t much of a meeting – Gov. John Kasich, Senate President Tom Niehaus and Speaker Bill Batchelder sitting behind one table, facing a table featuring placards bearing the names of Ohio’s largest public employee unions.

“Look at this.”

Kasich points to the empty chairs behind the placards.

“You have the three leaders of the state of Ohio sitting here. And they won’t show up. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career.”

Just two days after the Republican lawmakers extended the invitation to the leadership of the We Are Ohio coalition, they expressed concern that the union groups in that coalition didn’t take them up on their offer to talk about Issue 2.

We Are Ohio put the issue onto the fall ballot, to scrap the collective bargaining reform law Senate Bill 5. Kasich said he’d extended the offer to talk now after private discussions with Republican former House speaker JoAnn Davidson and union leaders earlier this summer ended – Kasich says, when unions walked away.

It was clear where Speaker Batchelder laid the blame for the lack of a meeting now.

“Here we are today, trying to work with the people who don’t want to come to the table, who don’t want to offer amendments, who don’t want to represent their own membership,” Bactchelder said.

But while the Republican lawmakers said they’d been hopeful union leaders would show up, a spokesperson for We Are Ohio says they had to have known it was unlikely. Melissa Fazekas said We Are Ohio sent a letter to the lawmakers, telling them if the legislature would come back and repeal all of Senate Bill 5, coalition leaders would be happy to talk.

“But having an empty table with a few chairs does not represent the 1.3 million Ohioans who truly want to repeal this bill and have their voices heard in November,” she said.

Union leaders have said they tried to share their concerns during the Senate Bill 5 debate, but they were shut out of packed hearing rooms and even out of the building itself. Democratic House Minority Whip Tracy Heard of Columbus stood outside the Capitol, where thousands of protestors shouted in the snow when they locked out of the Statehouse in February.

“This was clearly a false flag of truce. If the GOP was serious about working together at this late stage, they would convene the legislature next week, repeal SB 5, and start the process with a clean slate,” Heard said.

Heard then offered a timeline on the speed of the bill’s passage, from its start on February 1 to the day it was signed on March 31, 59 days later. And Heard also noted the attempt to split the ballot issue into separate questions, and then the discussion of whether the ballot issue should be a yes or a note vote. But at least one of Senate Bill 5’s opponents says talks aren’t a bad idea. However, Republican Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati both sides have to give.

“We repeal 5, they drop the referendum, both sides are now mutually disarmed, and then they agree in a cooperative spirit to move forward,” Seitz said.

And it’s possible the Senate Bill 5 debate will go national this weekend. Governor Kasich is delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s weekly address.