By Jo Ingles
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio residents will be voting this fall on whether to allow a controversial collective bargaining law to go into effect, officials said Thursday.
Backers of the effort to repeal the law have successfully collected almost four times as many signatures needed to put the issue on the statewide ballot.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said opponents of the newly passed law collected 915,456 valid petition signatures. A total of 231,147 were needed.
"We Are Ohio has collected and validated more signatures than any other campaign in Ohio history," said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for the group collecting the signatures. She expects voters will repeal the new law in November.
Jason Mauk, a spokesman with "Building a Better Ohio", the group working to keep the law on the books, said he's looking forward to the campaign.
"We can keep the unfair, unsustainable policies that are bankrupting our communities, or we can change direction and given them the tools they need to create jobs and get spending under control," Mauk said.
The new law bans strikes, as well as creating other limits on collective bargaining by public employees, which include teachers, firefighters and police officers. It has not yet taken effect and will not unless it survives the referendum challenge in November.
Wisconsin's passage of a law this year limiting collective bargaining for public workers gained more national attention, and protests. But Ohio is far more important to unions. It has the sixth largest number of public sector union members among all the 50 states, twice the number of Wisconsin.
With many auto and steel and manufacturing plants, Ohio is also a union bellwether.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found 56 percent of voters want to overturn the collective bargaining law.
(Writing and reporting by Jo Ingles; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)