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Senate Bill 5 already has impact

March 21, 2011 - Rob Weaver
A quick glance at provisions of Senate Bill 5 in its current form would seem to belie claims the measure would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. After all, the amended version passed by the Ohio Senate would allow collective bargaining for state employees (original bill would have prohibited it). The version also would allow collective bargaining for wages, hours and employment terms but not for health care benefits, pensions, privatization of services, work force numbers and other provisions. Taxpayers might think that does sound like a reasonable change. But consider the the next two provisions of the proposal. The bill would: • Ban strikes by public employees. • Establishes new procedures for workers and management to deal with disputed contract terms. Instead of binding arbitration, the final step in the process would be review by the local legislative body for public hearings and an eventual decision. To me, this sounds as though a city or village council, school board or board of commissioners would have the last word. What incentive would administrators have to negotiate a contract? Now, if a public employee union asked for the moon, and management’s counter-offer was for peanuts, a mediator could be expected to decide on a more down-to-earth resolution. Under the proposal, a board or council would have to accept either its offer or the union's. No wonder there’s a provision banning strikes. Opinions on the change vary. “This is a major step forward in correcting the imbalance between taxpayers and the government unions that work for them,” Gov. John Kasich said. “The amended bill still strips public employees of any means to effectively bargain and would put them in jail if they strike,” said Senate Democratic Leader Capri S. Cafaro. “Senate Bill 5 turns collective bargaining into a one-sided conversation where management always gets the last word." In reality, the bill already is having an impact. Edith Starzyk of The Plain Dealer wrote this in a recent blog: “In Strongsville, nine months of often tense negotiations yielded a teachers contract that the Strongsville Education Association approved Tuesday -- the day before the Senate passed SB5. “The agreement will save the district $2 million, thanks to a salary freeze and the elimination of step increases, a higher health insurance payment for teachers and other concessions.” Sounds like the teachers are cutting their losses -- at least temporarily. It’ll be interesting to see whether the bill is changed in the Ohio House.


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