As mentioned earlier today, State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) finally unveiled the substantive text of SB 5, a bill that would repeal the right of public employees to collectively bargain at the State level and eviscerate the right of local government and teachers.
However, what nobody expected is the record crowd of opponents who appeared to protest Jones’ bill.
(Image source: Anthony Caldwell, SEIU1199)
The Ohio AFL-CIO tweeted that someone from the Capitol Square Review Board estimated that 800 people showed up today for the hearing. Gongwer reported over Twitter that the hearing had to be moved to a larger space and even then speakers had to be set up in the Capitol Rotunda for everyone to follow it.
According to the Dayton Daily News, Governor Kasich stopped by the hearings to give the bill his unqualified support. (I’m sure Senator Jones is thrilled to have the support of a guy with a 30% approval rating.)
So, what does SB 5 do? Well, according to the Columbus Dispatch, Jones’ bill would:
- End all collective bargaining rights for state employees, including at universities and colleges;
- Local police and firefighters would have weakened rights to binding arbitration by instead required deadlocked parties to extend their contract for a year first;
- Local government could no longer include terms of health insurance coverage or costs in collective bargaining agreements. Management will pick insurance policies, and employees must cover at least 20 percent of the cost;
- Allow local governments to hire permanent replacement workers during a strike (i.e. “scabs.”)
- Prohibits public employers from picking up extra employee pension contributions;
- Eliminates from state law automatic pay increases for experience and education (no automatic raise when you get your Masters Degree, teachers!);
- Eliminates from state law leave policies and automatic 15 sick days for teachers (but, hey, enjoy getting those two calamity days back!);
- Prohibits school districts from bargaining away certain management powers, such as the ability to deploy teachers to certain buildings;
- No longer makes longevity a deciding factor when management is deciding to make layoffs;
- Requires a public employer to publish on its website any changes in the union contract that impacts compensation of workers, including wages, length of service payments, and insurance coverage.;
- Requires the employer and the State Employment Relations Board to publish the parties’ offers on their websites before and after fact-finding is complete; and
- Allows schools or local governments in fiscal emergency to terminate or modify a collective bargaining agreement.
Again from the Dayton Daily News:
[Jones] said, however, that the public has a right to know more about how public employees are compensated and managers need more flexibility to serve the public better.
Yep, that’s right. Jones’ bill would actually require more transparency during union negotiations than the Republicans are willing to permit uder RobsOhio. In fact, they’re 180-degrees from one another. Ironic, ain’t it?
Last term, Jones had an opportunity to support ending an automatic pay increase for her own salary as a state “employee” during the state budget battle. She voted against cutting her own salary, but now wants to deny Ohio’s working-class public employees COLA in salaries.
The Ohio AFL-CIO issued a press release after today’s committee hearing blasting Jones’ bill:
“Lawmakers need to stop trying to blame workers for a budget crisis that politicians created, and they need to focus on rebuilding our economy instead of hurting the communities we serve,” said K.J. Watts, a firefighter from the Lancaster area. “We want to work with lawmakers to come up with balanced solutions to get us out of this mess. Senate Bill 5 is not the way to do that.”
“This bill puts at risk future generations of Ohioans, like the students I provide services for,” said Mericle Long, a supply coordinator at Ohio State University who lives in Columbus. “At a time when workers and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet, we need leaders to work to create an economy that works for all and propose initiatives that allow workers to reinvest in their communities, not lower the bar for all workers.”
“Instead of focusing on solving the economic problems facing Ohio and creating family-sustaining jobs for the 500,000 Ohioans who still remain jobless, Senator Jones and Senate GOP leadership are trying to scapegoat hard-working public service workers for our economic and budget woes,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.
“This bill is a partisan assault on working families and does nothing but punish workers and hurt the middle class, plain and simple,” added Burga. “This bill would destroy the middle class because the working families this bill affects not only provide vital services, but put money and resources back into their communities, which support local merchants and other small businesses.”
This bill isn’t about the budget state or local. This bill is about nothing more than Republicans trying to take political vengeance on the teachers and other public unions because they don’t support them on election day. That’s all this is. The spoils of their election victory from November and the hopes that they can either eliminate the unions as a political threat to their agenda or scare them into submission.
Whatever happened to the freedom of contract? It’s still recognized under our federal Constitution. And it’s been recognized by the highest Court of our State. It’s just been forgotten about by our elected legislature.
“It has long been recognized that persons have a fundamental right to contract freely with the expectation that the contract will be enforced. This freedom is as fundamental to our society as the right to write and to speak without restraint. Government interference with this right must therefore be restricted to those exceptional cases where intrusion is absolutely necessary, such as contracts promoting illegal acts.”—Nottingdale Homeowners’ Assoc. v. Darby (1987), 33 Ohio St. 3d 32, 36.
And what about the “home rule” rights of municipalities under Art. XVIII, Sec. 7? Who is the legislature to decide what a home rule city can and cannot bargain for in its collective bargaining agreements? Can a government just declare its own contracts null and void by declaring, by legislative act, that the party it entered into the contract no longer legally exists?
And don’t fool yourself. The second this bill becomes law, someone will suggest its “unfair” for cities to be forced to tolerate public unions when the State doesn’t. If successful, this bill won’t be the end.
And note that the bill doesn’t just impact collective bargaining, but also civil service protection. The bill mandates that the Ohio Department of Administrative Service “to develop a merit-based system of pay.” That sounds innocuous, but since merit-based is ordinarily a subjective, not objective system, it allows political appointees to tool to reward/punish public employees on political motives.
And consider this ridiculous divergence. Thanks to the bill, while local police may still belong to a union, the uniformed officers of the Ohio Highway Patrol cannot. Yep, Gov. Kasich just endorsed a bill that would remove all union protections to the very people who are willing to risk their lives to protect him and his family every day.
We’ll, of course, have more on the story as it develops.
But again, when will this information be mentioned in the Ohio media:
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