Why I’m a Republican voting against Ohio Senate Bill 5

A non-technical entry from me this time, but I felt compelled to share my thoughts on Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 debate.

I’m currently about a third of the way through reading the text of the rather lengthy Bill.  My plan is to have it read cover-to-cover at least a couple days before election day.  As a point of information, I consider myself, politically, to be something of a Raging Moderate, though I do tend to vote Republican and did vote for Governor Kasich, who at the time seemed to me to be (marginally) the better option.  Kasich has spearheaded Senate Bill 5, a piece of legislation that significantly limits collective bargaining for public employees in the state of Ohio.  The Bill is now in referendum as Issue 2.  Putting political alignments aside and looking at what’s actually in Senate Bill 5, I can see some good things.  And I can see some VERY bad things.

Here is my analysis of the Bill and why the bad is outweighing the good.

The Intent of the Bill

Let’s talk for a second about the intent of the Bill.  Both sides of the argument surrounding the Bill are each suggesting ulterior motives from the opposing side’s stance.  But most will at least agree that part of the Bill’s intent is to try to help our current fiscal crisis in the state of Ohio. 

How the Bill attempts to help the budget

Some of SB5’s main attempts to control government spending come from enforcing health benefit contributions and the outlawing of what is known as “pension pick-ups”.  For the former, the Bill limits collective bargaining of health care benefits costs, locking them in at a 15% employee contribution.  Even though many public employees already pay this, I could see how this could help cut down the government spending.  And what about pension contributions?  You may have heard that SB5 increases how much public employees pay towards pensions.  In fact, it does not.  Current laws have public workers contribute up to 10% of their paycheck towards their pension and employers being required to pay 14%.  SB5 does not change this.  What it does do is outlaw the practice of “pension pick-ups”, by which employers agree to pay a portion of the employees’ 10% contribution.  Again, some money saved.

What are the specifics of the Collective Bargaining Restrictions?

The text of the Bill preserves the collective bargaining of wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.  There seems to be some confusion about if safety equipment is covered.  This is understandable.  When the original version of Senate Bill 5 narrowly passed the Ohio Senate on March 2nd of this year, it did not allow for collective bargaining of safety equipment.  It was the revised Bill that came out of the Ohio House on March 31st that added explicit coverage of safety equipment in this added line: “…equipment issues directly related to personal safety are subject to collective bargaining”  (SB5 4117.08 F).  So the current version of SB5 DOES allow police and firefighters to bargain for safety equipment.

So far, all of this sounds reasonable. 

Stay tuned.  This takes a hard left turn into over-the-line.

The bad stuff

Senate Bill 5, page 230, 4117.08 C: “nothing … impairs the right and responsibility of each public employer to:” 

“(5) Make any and all reasonable rules and regulations”.  It does not put any definition on what is “reasonable”.  This is unacceptably broad and vague.  This says that if public workers want to collectively bargain against something, the other side of the table can simply say, “I’m sorry, that’s a reasonable policy.  You can’t collectively bargain against it.” 

The Bill is taking too much power away from the workers who are in the best place to know what is best and safest for our communities.  Firefighters and nurses wouldn’t be able to collectively bargain for appropriate staffing levels.  Safety equipment is one thing, but if you don’t have enough people to do a job, how can that be safe?

Effect on Teachers

Teachers seem to be at the heart of the SB5 debate.  If SB5 is allowed to continue, they will lose the right to strike, collectively bargain for appropriate class sizes, indeed lose the right to collectively bargain on any matter concerning the education of our children which is dubbed “reasonable” by the people who spend almost no time in the classroom.  Republicans value personal responsibility.  Who else (besides parents, I hope) would feel a greater sense of responsibility about the education of our children than teachers?  We have to insure that teachers continue to have a voice in what is best for our children.  SB5 is denying them that.

SB5 also mentions performance-based pay for teachers.  I say “mentions” because it defines no specifics about how this is to be done or how performance is to be measured, though it gives some suggestions.  Some theorize that performance-based pay could be good for education.  I must say, we can theorize all we want.  But I’m an engineer.  I prefer facts, and study, and data, and evidence.  And the fact is I don’t know of any study performed that concludes that performance-based pay is good for education.  All of them either say it doesn’t work or are inconclusive.  Why this legislation would be pushing a policy which no study supports is mind-boggling.

The big one

If you thought the denying of bargaining on self-defined “reasonable” rules was bad enough, brace yourself, we’re not done.  The big bad item of this Bill:  Senate Bill 5 eliminates binding arbitration, in which a neutral third party, instead of the public employer, decides collective bargaining disputes.  Who will decide collective bargaining disputes now?  The employer’s legislative body.  That’s right; the employees lose.  It would be like us having a debate about, oh, let’s say, Senate Bill 5, wherein at the end, the winner is decided by me.  And I choose myself; I win.  Sound fair?

Isn’t it just common sense that any dispute should be decided by a neutral party?  With binding arbitration eliminated by Senate Bill 5, we can effectively forget any collective bargaining for the workers at this point.  It would be futile.

Conclusion

I’m all for fiscal responsibility, but one can’t sacrifice responsibility to the community or responsibility to equality to get it.  I believe in our system of government, particularly in the idea of checks and balances.  And when one side of the table gets sole rights to decide what is “reasonable” and sole rights to decide who wins, then there is no check, there is no balance

I sincerely hope there may be some future incarnation of legislation that takes some of the good from this Bill and combines it with a more fair and balanced policy toward the working class.  For now, please join me and urge others to join me in voting NO on Issue 2:  NO to Senate Bill 5.

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4 Responses to Why I’m a Republican voting against Ohio Senate Bill 5

  1. Well written, Jeff.

  2. Brad says:

    You sir are a Democrat disguising yourself as a Republican (aka McCain) Vote yes on Issue 2!

  3. Very well written! Thank you

  4. thanks for clearing up the safety equipment issue. well written piece.

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