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Obama supports Ohio effort to repeal anti-union legislation

National Democrats including President Obama are lending support to an effort by Democrats and labor allies in Ohio to repeal legislation that curbed collective bargaining rights for state employees.

Earlier this year, newly-elected Republican Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5, arguing that limiting state employee unions’ ability to collectively bargain was part of the answer to state budget woes.

A similar effort in Wisconsin led to recall attempts against a slate of Republican state senators, only several of which succeeded.

Union leaders in Ohio put a repeal initiative on the November ballot, called Issue 2. A no vote would undo the law.

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The issue tripped up Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week. He dodged questions about whether he supported Republican efforts to sustain the law, even after visiting with volunteers driving the “yes” vote. On Wednesday he said he supported the legislation “110%.”

Asked about the matter Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney initially said only that Obama “strongly supports collective bargaining rights,” but that he did not “have a specific response” as to whether he supported a repeal of this initiative.

A White House spokesman later told the Huffington Post that the president “doesn’t support [a vote on] the ballot initiative in Ohio that would strip away fundamental collective bargaining rights.”

The Democratic Governors Assn. has staked out a stronger position, contributing $150,000 directly to We Are Ohio, the coalition driving the repeal effort.

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“While we don’t often get involved in campaigns that are not directly related to gubernatorial elections, the stakes in Ohio are too high for us to sit on the sidelines,” executive director Colm O’Comartun said in a letter to repeal backers. “It is a fight that we must win to safeguard workers’ rights and to stand up to overreaching Republican governors like John Kasich.”

Obama campaigned in Ohio multiple times on behalf of the man Kasich beat in 2010, then-Gov. Ted Strickland. The DGA also was heavily involved in the campaign.

According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, 57% of those surveyed in Ohio said they would repeal the measure while 32% said they would keep it. The vote is set for Nov. 8.

Make Ohio Great, a group with ties to the Republican Governors Assn., has run ads in support of Kasich’s agenda but not specifically on Issue 2.


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