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Union protests preface Ohio govs State of State

COLUMBUS – Outcry over collective bargaining proposals in Ohio threatened to overshadow Republican Gov. John Kasich’s first State of the State speech as Democrats and union groups worked to mobilize thousands more protesters to the Statehouse.

The speech falls on Tuesday, the day a bill limiting negotiating rights for 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers and other public workers begins its trip through the Ohio House. The bill cleared the state Senate last week.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees set the stage for Tuesday’s protests with a “State of the Worker” event Monday.

Tim Roberts, a corrections officer at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio, west of Columbus, said he’s concerned about losing collective bargaining rights as Kasich prepares to make deep cuts to the state budget to address an estimated $8 billion budget gap.

“We live paycheck to paycheck,” said Roberts, a father of four.

The AFL-CIO planned a protest at the Statehouse at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, just ahead of Kasich’s noon speech. Some estimates for the event went as high as 25,000 people; demonstrations so far over the proposals have topped out around 8,500.

Under the bill, unionized public workers in Ohio could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions, but not health care or pension benefits. The measure would do away with automatic pay raises and base future wage increases on merit. It also would ban strikes by public workers and establish penalties for those who do participate in walkouts.