Daily Archives: February 17, 2011

Hot topics: SB 5 is heating up

It seems like I only just heard about Ohio SB 5 (collective bargaining unit reforms) last week—oh wait, that was just last week—but it’s already starting to get really ugly.

I’ve been seeing a lot about it on Facebook — mostly teacher (and librarian) friends, who are obviously posting to decry the bill. I can understand the desire to protect their jobs and benefits.

But just because the unions — and yes, I’m a member of a public employees union — are telling everybody “hey this is evil,” that doesn’t mean I automatically follow that standpoint blindly. I’d like to know what the heck this bill will really do. (Yes, I know I posted a link to the bill above, but I’d like an explanation in plain English, please.)

I have seen bits about it on the news web sites — okay, I’ve been camping them, trying to learn more about SB 5 (and the other current state legislative debates that might affect me). I’ve been checking the Dayton Daily News and Columbus Dispatch mostly. I guess I should also add the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer to my frequent-check list.

Anyhow… Last night, I finally found a couple of articles that actually do a halfway decent job of listing some of the things that this bill would actually do. Joe Guillen’s article from the Plain Dealer (this is actually from last week) gives a few short bullets at the end of it; that was helpful, for a start.

But then I found this article by Jim Siegel from the Dispatch (also from last week – how did I miss these before? or maybe I just got really interested in it all this week since the protests at the statehouse started).

I was glad that Siegel clarified that the bill distinguishes between state employees and local public employees. That wasn’t clear to me before I read his article. SB 5 would eliminate collective bargaining units (unions) for all state public employees – which I understand to be the portion that includes teachers (correct me if I’m wrong!).

However, for local government public employees – which, as I understand it, would be the librarians, firemen, policemen, etc. (again, correct me if I’m wrong on this, please!) – SB 5 makes a lot of changes to the ways those unions can bargain but does not call for their complete elimination. (Siegel includes a lengthy bullet list for the changes the bill would make to local workers’ unions.)

I will probably be stoned by my co-workers for admitting this, but there were some things in the article that I agreed with, regarding what the bill proposes to do. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s 100% right or that it should be supported in its current form. But I definitely agree with some of the propositions, such as (quoted directly from Siegel’s article):

  • Local: “No longer makes longevity a deciding factor when management is deciding to make layoffs.” If you’ve been there a long time and you’re the best, then great. But I don’t think “seniority” (i.e. managing not to get fired for more years than everyone else) should hold as much weight as it does.
  • State: “Requires the Department of Administrative Services to develop a merit-based system of pay.” Can we get some of that over on the local employees side? As Sen. Jones (aka the “villain” in this situation, or one of) put it so wonderfully in Siegel’s article: “I don’t think that everybody, by virtue of showing up every day, should be entitled to the same increase in salary.” I couldn’t agree more.
  • Local: “Removes health insurance from collective bargaining. Management will pick insurance policies, and employees must cover at least 20 percent of the cost.” Okay, I don’t necessarily care about this one – I admit, I have my husband’s insurance. BUT, before I opened my mouth, I did a calculation based on information from his pay stub, and I see that we pay 25% of the cost of our insurance premium. What’s so wrong with that? [Edit: Since writing this initially, I dug up the numbers on health insurance premiums at the library where I work: the employee pays only 8%. Note: Both of these stats were based on family coverage. /end edit]
  • Local: “Requires a public employer to publish on its website any changes in the union contract that impacts compensation of workers, including wages, length of service payments, and insurance coverage.” What’s so wrong with this? That should all be public record anyway. I think we should be held accountable and be open with that information – and not require people to file a bunch of paperwork in order to get it.

I’m not saying I agree with everything, or that I think all of that should be accomplished by a law. I’m just saying I don’t think all of the proposals are completely unreasonable. I’m sure the unions will let us all know how our management would twist these otherwise-not-completely-offensive proposals around to screw us.

Now, let the stoning commence.