Kasich to Labor: Let’s make a deal

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) hasn’t been especially interested in working with those with whom he disagrees. Soon after getting elected, he declared, “If you’re not on the bus, we’ll run over you with the bus. And I’m not kidding.”

It was with this attitude that Kasich and his GOP allies used a heavy hand to pass a measure called SB5, which restricted the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s public employees, affecting more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees, and others. When labor and its Democratic allies balked, the governor just ran them over with the bus. When some Ohio Republicans sided with workers, they were punished, too. Kasich signed SB5 into law four months ago.

Unions and their allies promptly got to work collecting signatures, forcing a ballot referendum that will give voters a chance to repeal SB5 on their own in November (SB5 opponents needed about 230,000 signatures, but collected over 1.2 million). Polls show progressives likely to win.

All of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it, Kasich wants to talk.

Gov. John Kasich and top Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they were offering to change a new law limiting collective bargaining in an attempt to keep a repeal effort off the November ballot. The administration released a letter asking for a meeting on Friday to discuss a compromise with 10 union leaders authorized to negotiate on behalf of We Are Ohio, the group pushing for a repeal of the law.

The letter reiterates supporters’ backing for the law and their confidence they can win in the fall, but it signals a desire to avoid a costly ballot battle. “A divisive fight on these issues that could possibly be avoided is in the best interest of everyone, including public employees and people who support public employees,” said the governor, above, a first-term Republican.

Kasich said the offer to revisit the law he recently signed has nothing to do with “a fear we are going to lose.”

The laughter was audible throughout Ohio. I mean, really. Why else would the governor suddenly discover a willingness to change a law he championed?

It’s almost amusing — Kasich wants to negotiate with state employees after gutting their collective bargaining rights, because he knows his constituents are likely to side with workers over him.

A progressive coalition, We Are Ohio, dismissed talk of a deal, but said Republicans can avoid the November referendum by repealing the anti-worker measure.