It is impossible for me to accept that the process of collective bargaining and union membership has changed from actually being inserted into legislation to being reviled in a mere four years.  Senate Bill 5 has set out to demonize organized labor in Ohio, with the target squarely on the backs of public sector workers.  And those knives keep getting shoved in deeper and deeper, especially when we learn that the very same legislators that are throwing unions under the bus voted to support collective bargaining and unions in the 2007 State Budget bill (HB119) with a near unanimous vote (96-1 in House, 33-0 in Senate).  By comparison, Democrats were unable to support the drastic changes in this year’s Republican Budget, so the bill passed on straight party-line votes (59-40 in House, 23-10 in Senate).

And it’s not like 2007 was a banner year for Ohio.  While the national recession has an “official” starting date of December, 2007, Ohio’s unemployment had been falling throughout Bob Taft’s entire term as Governor, and Ted Strickland was in his first year trying to clean up the mess, and the Federal Stimulus package was over a year away.

So, with what we have learned this year, and seeing the correction that Governor Strickland and the legislature made, we could presume that in the 2007 Budget, they tried to “break the backs of organized labor,” right?

Obviously we know they didn’t or 2011 wouldn’t have turned out so exciting!

In fact, not only did the legislature NOT try to eliminate unions and collective bargaining, they actually reaffirmed it in the existing law AND inserted new language in to the bill during the process that actually reaffirmed the legitimacy of employee organizing.  The House passed their version in a unanimous 97-0 floor vote and the Senate followed with their own unanimous 33-0 tally.  Only when the differing versions came out of committee did the versions receive a single no vote from Representative Fessler.

In 2007, for example, HB119 co-sponsor, Representative Shannon Jones, voted in favor of the deletion of the following text from Section 4117.03:

(2) During collective bargaining, employees of public schools may agree to pay a higher percentage of the premium for health benefit coverage under the plans designed by the school employees health care board pursuant to section 9.901 of the Revised Code than the percentage designated as the employees’ contribution level by the board. A collective bargaining agreement, however, shall not permit the employees to contribute a lesser percentage of the premium than that set as the employees’ contribution level by the school employees health care board, unless, in so doing, the participating school board is able to remain in compliance with the aggregate goal set pursuant to division (G)(3) of section 9.901 of the Revised Code.

Again, that was DELETED.  Language that permitted public school employees to negotiate for higher premiums and did not permit those employees to contribute a lesser amount was removed, meaning that the General Assembly (129-1 vote) believed that public school employees SHOULD NOT contribute a greater amount to their health care coverage.  Did I mention that current Senate President Niehaus was on the conference committee that sorted out the final language?

Also in Section 4117.03 of HB 119 in 2007, a reaffirmation of a public school employee’s right to bargain for health care that was favor by Jones and Niehaus in 2007:

(E) Employees of public schools may bargain collectively for health care benefits; however, all health care benefits shall include best practices prescribed by the school employees health care board, in accordance with section 9.901 of the Revised Code.

That exact language would be cut 4 years later by Senator Shannon Jones in SB5:

(E) Employees of public schools may bargain collectively for healthcare benefits; however, all health care benefits shall include best practicesprescribed by the school employees health care board, in accordance withsection 9.901 of the Revised Code.

There’s more.  In 2007, Jones was joined by Senators Amstutz, Faber, Schaffer, and Niehaus as they voted to allow public employees the right to bargain on the the “continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing provision of a collective bargaining agreement” and then did an about face as they joined together to eliminate that choice in SB5:

Sec. 4117.03   (4) Bargain collectively with their public employers to determine wages, hours, terms and other conditions of employment and the continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing provision of a collective bargaining agreement, and enter into collective bargaining agreements;

And strangely, while the 2007 General Assembly unanimously favored salary schedules as specified in Section 124.152 of Ohio Revised Code during a period of a declining economy, the 2011 General Assembly narrowly voted to replace these schedules with the still-undefined “performance pay.”  If this idea of a prescribed salary schedule was so completely throwing off Ohio’s economy and is an outdated process today, wouldn’t it have been outdated in 2007?  And shouldn’t the leaders who are supporting it today have been outspoken about it then as the Democratic legislators are today?

Instead, every Republican supported this language (even Rep. Fessler voted “yes” in the House version) merely 4 years ago.  In fact, not only did they support it, many are listed as co-sponsors.

 

The highlighted names represent those Republicans who co-sponsored the 2007 Budget Bill and were still around to vote on Senate Bill 5.  Of the 19, only 4, Grendell, Patton, , Gardner, and McGregor [omitted from original post]maintained their integrity and voted for what they had already demonstrated years before – that collective bargaining is not the cause of the economic downturn.

As for the other sixteen co-sponsors, most notably Shannon Jones and Tom Niehaus?  We can only ponder what has occurred in their lives that has caused them to so blatantly contradict themselves on such a major issue.

In 2007, we have every Republican voting in favor of a budget that includes the support of public sector unions and collective bargaining rights.

In 2011, we have every Democrat standing by their principles and voting against a bill promoted by many of those same whichever-way-the-wind-blows-the-money Republicans that does a complete turnaround and falsely blames these very public sector unions for Ohio’s economic problems.

Who will you trust?

 

 

 

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