So you’ve probably heard by now that Ohio SB 5 did pass. Governor John Kasich signed the union-limiting bill into law on March 31st. The unions are promising to challenge the law by taking it to the voters through referendum. And so the fight continues.
One of the later amendments to the bill that did make it into the final version is that among other various things, the law prevents unions from charging a “fair share fee” to non-members but still requires the union to represent them. For those not familiar with how this works: union members must pay dues—ours at the Dayton Metro Library are something like 1.5% of gross pay—which go towards for union activities, paying the lawyer when needed, etc. Union “members” get to vote. Those who “choose” not to be members (and you’ll see why I use quotation marks here in a minute) must pay a “fair share fee” that is equivalent to normal union dues. Non-members cannot vote in the union (e.g., on contract proposals, etc.), but they are still bound by the same rules that govern regular union members, since they are a part of the body of employees covered by the union. Are you still with me so far?
So let’s review: union members pay “dues” of $X and get to vote; non-members pay a “fair share fee” of $X and do not get to vote. All of these people are represented by the union (i.e., bound by the union contract), and have the same amount of money taken out of their paycheck; the only difference is whether or not the person has a say in the terms of that contract (i.e., the right to vote any time there’s anything to vote on). So as I’ve always understood it, there was never any real , logical reason to not be a “member” of the union. I believe out of 250+ employees who are covered by our union, there are about 8 who are “fair share members”. Maybe these people are philosophically opposed to unions, or maybe they think their “non-membership” makes a bigger difference than it actually does. I really don’t know.
But now, after SB 5 has passed, there will be an actual, real difference between being a member or non-member of the union — and for a beginning librarian at Dayton Metro Library, it’s about $40/month (almost $500/year). Under the new provisions enacted by SB 5’s passage, unions can no longer charge a “fair share fee” to non-members, but they are still required to represent those non-dues-paying non-members.
Will this weaken unions? Almost certainly. Why? Because the people (public employees) will vote with their wallets. I’m not saying all of them will suddenly drop their union memberships; I’m also not advocating whether they should or shouldn’t. I’m just saying it should only be expected that some of them will. Why? Because now people will have an actual choice of whether to be a union member/non-member. Not like before when it was “do you want to be a union member and have $20 taken out of your check every 2 weeks? or would you rather be a non-member and have $20 taken out of your check every 2 weeks?” People are going to weigh the value they see in the union versus the value they see in that extra $20+ every two weeks. And some people are going to take the money and run.
SB 5 opponents must gather more than 231,000 signatures in 90 days in order to force a voter referendum on the November ballot, in an attempt to repeal the law. If the signatures are gathered, the law cannot go into effect until after the November election takes place. However, I can’t seem to find anything anywhere that says when the law would go into effect if there are no enough signatures gathered for a referendum. Perhaps the media just assumes there will be plenty of signatures so doesn’t feel it necessary to bother telling us when this would take effect “otherwise”.
Edit: Ah, okay, here we go: Here’s the status report of legislation for SB 5 on the Ohio government web site. It obviously hasn’t been updated yet since the governor signed on Thursday, but at some point there ought to be some data in the “effective date” field.