Senate Bill 5, recently introduced into the Ohio Senate by Sen. Shannon Jones, could eliminate collective bargaining for public employees.
Public employees include firefighters, police officers, teachers and government workers among others.
The bill centers on whether public employees should have the right to collective bargaining through unions. Some have called the bill “union-busting.” Supporters of the bill have said the measures included would cut costs for the state.
Senate Bill 5 would also ban public employee strikes, remove health insurance as an item to be debated in collective bargaining, take away automatic pay increases for public employees, no longer allow teachers to pick their classes or schools, eliminate minimum numbers of employees and maximum class sizes and allow schools or governments determined to be in “fiscal emergency” to change or cancel collective bargaining agreements.
Miami University senior Courtney Reeves is nervous about the bill because she is an education major.
“Finding work is hard for any college graduate these days,” Reeves said. “This bill could lead to further cuts, making it even harder to find a job in a local school district.”
Reeves said unions help negotiate important employee needs such as better pay, health care and other benefits.
“Without this negotiating, employees will simply be told by their local government what they will be paid,” Reeves said. “Nothing is stopping wages from being pushed down to the minimum, which can not only affect the teachers, but the school districts and ultimately the children.”
According to Jones’ testimony before the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee Feb. 8, the need for collective bargaining reform became apparent to her through her work in public service.
“I am not doing this to punish employees who serve the people of this state day after day,” Jones said. “I am not doing this to punish unions or serve as some sort of political payback. Simply put, I am doing this because I want to give government the flexibility and control over its workforce.”
Jones said the bill would not end current bargaining agreements immediately, but would allow them to expire according to their terms.
Jones also said the bill would not eliminate collective bargaining for local governments but she was not opposed to doing so at a later date.
Senate Bill 5 has caused a stir throughout Ohio. Students at the University of Cincinnati participated in a rally Monday, Feb. 21 to express their feelings against the bill.
If the bill passes the Ohio Senate, it would then move to the House of Representatives before being presented to Gov. John Kasich.
Michele Prater, spokesperson for the Ohio Education Association, said the union is aggressively opposing the bill and has seen teachers becoming active opponents in grassroots-level politics.
“Rather than creating jobs, this legislation will hurt local communities, reversing Ohio’s positive economic outlook,” Prater said via e-mail. “Teachers know best what’s needed to improve student learning, and collective bargaining gives them the opportunity to focus on teaching rather than time-consuming employment issues.”
Prater said the bill would affect all public school teachers in Ohio, who represent the largest segment of public employees in the state.
Holli Morrish, Talawanda City Schools community relations director, said the teachers union does not have a comment at this time because Senate Bill 5 is only proposed legislation.
Members of the Fraternal Order of Police were unavailable for comment.