Thousands gathered in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a bill that will effectively end collective bargaining for state workers and drastically reduce it for local government employees like police officers and firefighters. Ohio faces an $8 billion budget deficit this year, and the bill cutting collective bargaining was introduced by a Republican senator, Shannon Jones, who said it was intended to give state and local governments more control over their finances in hard economic times. Democrats, including former Gov. Ted Strickland who joined in the protests, say Republicans are using the budget deficit to end unions’ power. Ohio is the latest union battleground state, following Wisconsin and Indiana, although Democratic lawmakers in Columbus cannot take the same track as their counterparts and flee the state: Republicans have enough votes to fulfill the quorum and get the bill passed.