Remember how shortly after the election, Governor Kasich declared war on Ohio’s public unions and collective bargaining?

(Source: Marc Kovac @ Capitol Blog, 12/9/10)

To hear Kasich and his political allies tell it, Ohio’s collective bargain law is bankrupting the State and it, and not the massive tax cut passage conservatives passed in 2005 which cut the income tax by nearly a quarter with no plan to pay for them, is responsible for our budgetary situation.

Even the Dispatch’s editorial board earlier this month applauded Kasich’s willingness to take on binding arbitration which the editorial presented as nothing more than a sop to public unions to force massive pay increases on local government budgets.

Well, in Sunday’s Dispatch, they reported on a review of binding arbitration decisions in public sector union matters.  And here’s what the found:

  • First, only 2% of all labor disputes were even settled by binding arbitration;
  • The government wins out just as often as often as the public unions have won in wage disputes;
  • On average binding arbitration only lead to 2% in wage increases (that’s below what Social Security typically gives in COLA adjustments);
  • Even in terms of dollar value or percentage of increases, binding arbitration has averaged almost exactly right in the middle between the government’s position and the pubic unions;

In other words, if binding arbitration was intended to be a major sop for the public unions in Ohio, its been a major failure.  If it were intended to be an effective way to resolve union/management disputes that didn’t involve striking, it’s been an amazing success.

Even the conservative Buckeye Institute is quoting as saying that getting rid of binding arbitration would really have very little budgetary impact (but wait, there’s more):

"It’s a good step to look at that issue, but that’s not what’s driving costs to local government," said Matt A. Mayer, president of the free-market Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. "If you want to address that, you need to repeal collective bargaining."

"It’s a good step to look at that issue, but that’s not what’s driving costs to local government," said Matt A. Mayer, president of the free-market Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. "If you want to address that, you need to repeal collective bargaining."

State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) is the leading advocate for “reforming” Ohio’s public collective bargaining laws (she has also indicated that she is supportive of prohibiting public employees from engaging in collective bargaining at all):

The thing I’ve heard over and over again throughout the community and the state is that there’s a belief that (binding arbitration) is such a big stick that political subdivisions are agreeing to contracts even before fact-finding," Jones said, referring to the process of an arbitrator recommending, but not imposing, a settlement.

Fact-finding is a non-binding recommendation by an arbitrator to try to help the parties resolve an impasse in the negotiations.  It’s frankly more like an active mediation than arbitration.  Neither party is bound to the recommendation, and both are free to ignore it and disagree.

This “debate” isn’t about the economy or the budget.  The war against binding arbitration is nothing more than an ideological and political one being waged to weaken the political power of public unions who have opposed the Republicans now in power.   It’s nothing more than petty political payback being guised as some high-minded budgetary policy debate.

I applaud the Columbus Dispatch’s news room for revealing what a sham this debate has been.  Too bad the reporters who wrote this story are reportedly leaving the Dispatch for Bloomberg, soon.

 

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