WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) weighed in on the labor protests rocking the Midwest on Sunday, saying that the current system of collective bargaining is too tilted in favor of labor unions.
"In some of these states, you've got collective bargaining laws that are so weighted in favor of the public employees that there's almost no bargaining," Boehner said in an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. "We've given them a machine gun and put it right at the heads of the local officials and they really have their hands tied. And I think what you're seeing in these states is they're trying to bring some balance to these negotiations that when you look at the pay of public employees today and you look at their retirement benefits they are way out of line with many other working Americans."
Boehner placed part of the blame for the current situation on the Obama administration, who, along with the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress, "bailed out the states where they could avoid making the tough decisions," he said.
"Well, there are no more bailouts coming from Washington," Boehner said. "We're broke. We're broke! We don't have money to dish out to the states, so all these governors are trying to find ways to balance their budgets, which they're required to do."
Boehner cited his home state of Ohio among those facing tough choices. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is pushing a bill that, like Wisconsin's controversial budget repair legislation, would eliminate collective-bargaining rights for state employees and curtail the rights of local-level government employees.
Ohio's current collective bargaining law hasn't been changed in the 30 years since its inception. As The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports, it gives state and local workers the "right to collectively bargain for their working conditions and allows police and fire officials a right to seek binding arbitration."
"I'm not anti-union," Kasich recently told The Columbus Dispatch. "I think unions are an important part of the American fabric, but what we're doing here is basically to start sticking up for taxpayers and private-sector workers who have made enormous sacrifices over the last decade."
Kasich added that the collective bargaining proposal is just "one piece of an overall reform agenda." He is slated to present his two-year budget on March 15.
Thousands have turned out to Ohio's statehouse to protest the bill, and the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America (OFA) -- among other groups -- has been mobilizing in the state.
Last week, Boehner also criticized President Barack Obama for OFA's involvement, comparing protests to what was happening in Greece. "When the American people watched the people of Greece take to the streets to protest cuts to unsustainable government programs, they worried it might foreshadow events in our nation's distant future, but today, we see the same sort of protests on the streets of Madison, fueled by President Obama's own political machine," Boehner said in a statement.
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