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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – With Election Day less than a month away, backers and critics of Ohio State Issue 2, which performs radical surgery on the state’s decades old collective bargaining bill, are making their pitches to pass or defeat the measure.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has pushed for the changes to the state’s collective bargaining bill from his first day on the job, is touring the state, meeting up with other Republican leaders like Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder and Senate President Tom Niehaus in barn appearances.
Kasich and company say letting SB 5, which limits the bargaining abilities of 350,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, police and other public workers around the state, stand will help reward teachers who perform and work the hardest and give public managers another tool to control their costs.
For opponents of SB 5, who argue individuals, families and communities are better off if the bill is rejected by Ohio voters, some ammunition comes in the form of a report by a progressive advocacy think tank group that reports collective bargaining contracts often contain provisions that directly benefit communities. The group Policy Matters Ohio, issued a report Tuesday documenting that some key examples include safety officers negotiating for provisions that speed response times; teachers negotiating for more effective discipline or more enrichment classes; and nurses negotiating for better staffing ratios, which improve patient care. The report, released today by Policy Matters Ohio, examines the current discussion about collective bargaining from a perspective that has not received sufficient attention.
“There’s been a lot of emphasis on how collective bargaining might affect compensation or job security, and there are many reasons why those elements strengthen public services,” Amy Hanauer, Policy Matters executive director, said in prepared remarks. “This report finds that unions also often negotiate for provisions that more directly benefit Ohio communities.”
On March 31, 2011, Gov. Kasich signed Senate Bill 5, which made vast changes to Ohio’s public employee collective bargaining law. It eradicated the right to strike, eliminated binding arbitration, and sharply restricted the right to negotiate workplace conditions such as staffing levels, scheduling and hours. Defenders of collective bargaining collected 915,456 signatures to place an issue on the November 8 ballot that would overturn the change. A ‘yes’ vote on Issue 2 will allow the sweeping changes; a ‘no’ vote will keep in place the rules that have existed since 1983. Policy Matters Ohio argues that losing collective bargaining could hurt Ohio services.
For teacher unions, bargaining means improvements to classroom conditions that benefit both teachers and students.
For firefighters and police, keeping the bill means losing binding arbitration as a way of resolving impasses in contract disputes for local safety forces. Specifically, Ohio’s 1983 collective bargaining law gave these workers binding arbitration in exchange for taking away their right to strike. Historically, only 2 percent of negotiations have gone to arbitrators, who have sided with management about half of the time and unions the other half, PMO reported. With neither arbitration nor the right to strike, union leverage is extremely limited.
For public sector nurses, not having access to collective bargaining means that maintaining adequate nurse-patient ratios and scheduling that does not lead to overwork is no longer possible. PMO said its research has suggested that nurses should have input on staffing, scheduling, and hospital procedures.
Kasich has said that he wants to pay Ohio’s best teachers $100,000 per year. “I want to pay (teachers) that perform and work the hardest the most amount of money because they’re the ones who are dedicated to lifting our children,” Kasich said, according to published reports. “I also want to lift the profession of education,” he said.
At one of his pro-SB5 roadshows, Kasich said a policy that lets the best and the brightest go because they were the last one hired so they should be the first one fired makes little sense. “Seniority matters, but that’s not all that matters,” he said, adding that skills and dedication to children are very important but often overlooked when shrinking budgets demand cuts in personnel.
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