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Ohio's Collective Bargaining Fight Could Cost More Than $40 Million

by Elise Hu
Aug 19, 2011

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Elise Hu

Move over Wisconsin, the hot new battleground over public-worker unions is Ohio. And the fight will be costly.

Voters will get to choose in November whether to keep or repeal Senate Bill 5, the controversial Ohio law that neuters collective bargaining rights of public employees. The dueling campaigns are on track to spend $40 million or more by the time voters cast their ballots.

As StateImpact Ohio found in the latest campaign-finance filing, unions are dwarfing individual donors in their giving. For every dollar individuals sent in to the campaign to repeal SB 5, unions gave $100:

In issue campaigns like this one, organizations and corporations are often major funders. What is unusual is the "extraordinary" number of signatures opponents of SB 5 gathered to get the issue on the ballot-a state-record 915,456 valid signatures-pointing to strong feelings among voters in favor of repealing the law, political scientist John Green said.

Those strong feelings have prompted people to give more than $39,000 to We Are Ohio, the anti-SB 5 campaign, which reported raising nearly $5 million in total financial contributions.

The list of top donors to the repeal effort is available here. The donors who support collective-bargaining limits aren't available to the public. The pro-SB 5 campaign is structured as a 501(c)(4) organization with an associated state campaign committee, which keeps it from having to report donations to the parent group. But, the campaign says that it will disclose who has given to the campaign — though not how much they've given-before the Nov. 8 election.

Elise Hu is the digital editor of NPR's StateImpact effort, that focuses on government reporting in the states. Read more about it.

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