Today, the Director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services sent a letter out to every State employees regarding SB 5.  Amazingly (or not), the letter seems to be virtually lifted from the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee’s pro-SB 5 website,

And it contains a number of SB 5 statements that are demonstratively false:

“State employees keep their . . . healthcare benefits.”

This is not true.  SB 5 specifically prohibits collective bargaining units from being involved in the selection of potential health care insurers for union employees.  Furthermore, the bill specifically states that the State is under no obligation to continue to offer the same benefits it offered under the current contract.  Therefore, if you are a State worker and you are satisfied with your health insurer, under SB 5 the State can cease providing that coverage and instead offer a different insurer which provides less coverage to save the State money.

Since SB 5 is billed as a way to save the State costs, there is no reason to believe that these provisions will not impact the healthcare benefits State employees presently enjoy.  Yes, they will still be offered healthcare insurance, but under SB 5, it doesn’t have to be the same kind of coverage as presently required.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission, SB 5:

Requires health care benefits provided through a jointly administered trust fund to be the same as the health care benefits provided to other public employees.

Furthermore, SB 5 mandates that State employees not only pay 15% of health insurance premium costs, but also dental, vision, short-term disability, etc.  My understanding is that presently state employees do not currently pay that much towards the premium on dental and vision, for example.

SB 5 maintains the right of Ohio’s public employees to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions, a right they have had since 1983.”

To the extent that this letter uses the term “maintains” to suggest that there is no impact or change under SB 5, this statement is also demonstratively false according to the Legislative Service Commission. 

Although the bill generically says that: “All matters pertaining to wages, hours, or and terms, and other conditions of employment between the public employer and the exclusive representative…,” it goes on and discusses a number of exceptions.  First, SB 5 declares that the “the inclusion of a provision in a previous collective bargaining agreement shall not be used as a basis for the provision being determined to concern wages, hours, and terms and conditions.”

In other words, just because it was in the last agreement doesn’t mean that the employer is obligated to consider it a term regarding a “work condition” (which I don’t believe the bill ever defines) in the first post-SB 5 negotiation.  Or as LSC put it:

Permits public employers to not bargain on any subject reserved to the management and direction of the governmental unit, even if the subject affects wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.

SB 5 also declares the following subjects as not being terms eligible for consideration in collective bargaining:

  • The privatization of a public employer?s services or contracting out of the
    public employer?s work
  • The number of employees required to be on duty or employed in any
    department, division, or facility of a public employer.

Now think of a prison guard.  You gonna tell me whether he has to work with inexperienced private guards hired by some private contractor the State decided to go with, or the number of guards he should expect to be by his side in some of the most dangerous areas of a prison isn’t something most folks would consider to be a matter of his “working conditions?”  They might, but SB 5 does not.  And for that reason, the DAS letter is false.

“SB 5 makes no changes to existing contracts and the State has no plans to seek changes in the current contract.”

This is technically true, but with one notable exception that explains why the Administration felt compelled to add the second part.  If the Administration seeks any modification or extension of any existing agreement, then the bill’s vague “fiscal watch” provisions kick in in which the Governor can declare a fiscal emergency that then allows him to invalidate or modify the agreement.

So as long as the second half of the statement is true, so is the first.

“Negotiations on future contracts will focus on wages, hours, safety equipment, and terms and conditions of employment.”

Not if the Administration intends to follow SB 5 they won’t.  Again, see the above section on “terms and conditions of employment.”  And I’m a little unsure exactly what the unions can negotiate on wages when the Administration, under SB 5, is vested with sole authority to create the merit-pay system SB 5 mandates.

I’d be surprised that employees who are “stepped out” can see raises under the merit-pay system since I understand that school teachers can’t do that under the merit-pay provisions in Kasich’s education budget.

Anyways, here’s the Administration’s letter lobbying its own employees on SB 5:

Apr 21 2011 DAS Dir Blair Re SB5