Tag Archives: ohio public employees unions

Majority votes “No” on Ohio Issue 2, repeals Senate Bill 5

Yesterday, on Election Day, Ohio voters finally settled the whole Senate Bill 5 issue (state Issue 2) once and for all — well, at least until bits and pieces of it are re-passed in another form at a later date. That’s right, the majority of Ohioans voted “no” on Issue 2, which thereby repealed the union-busting Senate Bill 5. Therefore, Senate Bill 5 will not take effect at all. (The law was passed in March but when its opponents were able to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot for a voter referendum, that delayed it taking effect until after the election. And since it failed voter approval, now it will not take effect at all.)

You can read articles with more details on Dayton Daily News, Columbus Dispatch, and CNN.

Since I have mentioned SB 5 in this blog on several previous occasions, I thought it would be appropriate to make a note [blog] of its repeal.

Keep in mind as I write this, I am a librarian at a unionized public library in Ohio. Some of the SB 5 stuff would have actually applied to us…

Yet, when I was first trying to understand the details of SB 5, I wrote on Feb 17 about some of the provisions that I didn’t find offensive.

For instance, I agree that…

  • People should be rewarded for a job well done (and conversely, not rewarded just for showing up).
  • It’s unfair to use seniority as the sole basis for retention during layoffs.
  • Asking employees to pay 20% of their own health insurance premiums seems reasonable. (My husband and I pay 25%.)
  • Asking employees to pay 10% of their gross income towards their own pensions seems reasonable. (Most of us public employees already do that anyway – and it’s not optional.)

I noted later on Feb 24 that our union contract already forbids strikes, so there wouldn’t be any change there. And I would have been interested to see the effects of eliminating the fair share fees (Apr 4).

But then again, there were some other parts of the bill that definitely weren’t so good. Take, for instance, those bits about safety equipment and staffing levels for emergency responders like policemen and firemen. Or what about teachers? I think it could be difficult to measure their performance in a lot of cases. What would they base it on? Student grades? That seems a bit unfair; just look at the disaster of No Child Left Behind and basing school funding on test scores. And let’s face it, you could have the best teacher in the world, and some kids just still wouldn’t make the grades because — and I hate to be the one to have to say this, even though I know I’m not the only one thinking it — some kids actually are lazy and/or stupid.

One of the above listed articles actually states that SB 5 started out as a 1 sentence bill and eventually evolved to over 300 pages. There were just too many factors, too many opportunities for a certain part of it to upset this or that group and make them vote “no”. No wonder it didn’t pass. Quinnippiac University polls as early as May (see May 18) were showing that the majority of voters disapproved of SB 5 as a whole, although there were certain parts that they supported.

Unfortunately, SB 5 was a “package deal.”

It reminds me of the kind of test questions you’d sometimes get in elementary school, the true/false ones that were designed to tell if you were reading the question carefully. If you just skimmed the thing, you’d say, Oh yeah, most of this looks familiar; that sounds right. And you’d mark it TRUE, and it would be end up being wrong, because the teacher slipped in ONE single detail that made the entire statement FALSE.

For example, if I said: “John Kasich, son of Ezekiel Kasich, was elected governor of Ohio in 2010 and pushed SB 5 through in early 2011.” That statement is false…unless, of course, our governor’s father’s name actually is Ezekiel, in which case I have mad guessing skills.

Well, in my humble opinion, SB 5 was kind of like that (at least to me). There were plenty of things in it that I felt were either completely reasonable, already in effect (at least for me), or not really so terrible. But then there were just a handful of other things that were pretty off-putting. And you couldn’t use a line-item-voter-veto or any magic like that. So you had to either say “yes” to all of it or “no” to all of it.

I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of some of the things that were in SB 5. Good ol’ Kasich has still got a few years yet, right?  But maybe in their next assault on public workers, the boys in Columbus will at least wise up and try to pass a few things here, a few things there. Unlike SB 5, which at over 300 pages threw Ohio public worker unions into a fury on basically every single page.

Seriously? SB 5 might as well have had a huge target sign painted on it.

OLC Government Relations Webcast notes

The Ohio Library Council (OLC) presented its latest Government Relations webcast today at 10:30 a.m. The description, from their web site, is as follows : “Lynda Murray, OLC Director of Government and Legal Services, will provide an overview of the state budget as it relates to public libraries and an update on other issues pending before the state legislature.” You can watch a recording of the entire original presentation here.

The following are notes that I made while watching the presentation, organized according to the piece of legislation that was being discussed. (This blog post is by no means an in-depth discussion or analysis of these pieces of legislation, nor will it include any remotely full explanations of what they actually are or contain; just notes on what Ms. Murray said about them in regards to libraries.) All bill designations/numbers refer to the Ohio state legislature.

HB 153 – Biennial Budget

  • must pass by June 30th
  • contains no new information regarding library funding in this bill since it was introduced by Governor Kasich in March

SB 5 – Collective Bargaining

  • The collective bargaining portion applies to all public employees in Ohio including unionized public libraries, except for association libraries.
  • The rest of SB 5 does not necessarily apply to library employees.
  • Public library employees are not “civil servants,” so the parts pertaining only to “civil servants” do not apply to public library employees.
  • The parts about vacation and sick leave minimums do not apply to public library employees.
  • The part that prohibits employers from paying the employee’s share of OPERS contributions does apply to public library employees.
  • The part about performance-based pay (rather than automatic step increases) does apply to public library employees.
  • Apparently there is an effort to move language about performance-based pay into the budget bill, so it will not be subject to voter referendum in November. However, as far as OLC is aware, that effort only pertains to school employees, not all public employees.
  • June 30th is the deadline for submission of signatures needed to get SB 5 on the ballot in November (voter referendum). So far, over 700,000 signatures have been collected, which is quite a few more than the 231,000 needed. If the signatures are certified, SB 5 goes on the ballot and cannot go into effect until after that election (and only then, if it is upheld by the voters). The campaign regarding SB 5 is expected to be a very big deal.
  • OLC has no formal position on SB 5 except to raise concerns about the potential loss of local control for public libraries.

HB 69 / SB 3 – Retirement

  • There has been little controversy regarding the recommendations made by the various public employee retirement systems, such as those changes recommended by OPERS.
  • There has been controversy over a proposal in the budget bill to shift the contribution percentages of employee/employer from the current 10/14 to 12/12. It has been argued that doing this could result in insolvency : e.g., if an employee leaves a system prior to retirement and takes their contributions with them (such as cashing out), that share is now larger, whereas the employer’s contributions stay put.
  • As of right now, the language for moving to a 12/12 split has been removed from the budget. New research is wanted in this area, so the idea is “on hold” for the time being.

HB 202 – Retire/Rehire

  • This is to nix the practice of people “retiring” from a high-salaried public service job and then getting rehired in another public service job (or “double-dipping” basically), by making the practice undesirable for all involved.
  • This could have possible impact on libraries that might wish to hire already-retired individuals for whatever reason.

HB 194 / SB 148 – Elections Reform

  • Proposes to change primary from March to May in 2012
  • was going to require photo ID for voters, but that has been removed from the bill

SB 120 – County Prosecutor Bill

  • Makes the county prosecutor the legal adviser of the public library.
  • It has passed, waiting for Governor Kasich’s signature, to go into effect.

Final Thoughts from Ms. Murray :

  • She called the volume of significant policy changes in the Ohio General Assembly over the past 6 months “historic”. (There has been a lot going on, clearly!)
  • Need to keep watching things closely. She expects budget correction bills that will adjust things later on, as needed.
  • Remember : More and more library users all the time. Also, good staff is crucial. Library users do support a good staff.

As I said before, these are just my notes from watching the presentation. If you are interested in library-related legislation in Ohio right now, I highly recommend you view the original webcast.

Hot topic: SB 5 survey results

A recent Quinnippiac University poll, conducted ofOhio voters from May 10-16, has shed some light on voters’ current feelings about Ohio SB 5 (the law passed March 31 to limit collective bargaining for public employees).

I found two articles about the poll today:

As though we didn’t know this was a hot topic already, at the time of this writing, there are over 100+ comments on each of those articles. However, I admit I did not subject myself to actually reading them…

According to the survey results, 54% of those surveyed think that SB 5 should be repealed; 36% apparently support it. (What happened to the other 10%?) It should come as no surprise that Democrats and Independents apparently favor repeal of SB 5 more often than Republicans do.

The survey also broke down various elements of SB 5 and asked people’s opinions on those elements individually. Here are some examples of those findings:

  • Most respondents felt that SB 5 was not needed in order to balance the state budget. (I agree with that: call it what it is; it’s a union-busting bill.)
  • Most respondents thought public employees should pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums. (I agree with that too; I figured up how much my husband and I pay for ours, and it is way over 15%. Seems fair to me.)
  • More people opposed “eliminating seniority as the sole factor in layoffs.” So, I take this to mean that more people think seniority should be the sole factor in layoffs. I disagree with that statement, based on the use of the word “sole.” I think it’s ridiculously unfair that some people would be safe from layoffs simply because they have been there the longest. Let the best man (or woman) win!
  • Most people supported merit-based pay raises, instead of automatic increases based on length of service. I completely agree. Those who are doing the best job should be rewarded.

(In the above examples, I used the term “most” to mean “more than 50%” simply to avoid having to write a whole bunch of wordy, awkward statements. If you want the exact percentages, check out the original poll data or one of the two articles listed above.)

There are several other stats reported in the articles and in the original survey data. I’ve only mentioned a few here that were of the most interest to me. (The survey also included items calculating the governor’s approval rating, and I’m not touching that one!)

Please note: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily represent opinions held by my employer or by my public employee union. (That’s right, I’m a union member.)Please see original data, and form your own opinions.

SB 5 passed

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.

Funding cuts not so scary, yet

Governor Kasich released his recommendations for the Ohio state biennial budget last week. Here’s a summary article from the Columbus Dispatch. Kasich is recommending a 5% funding cut for public libraries, and apparently that is a much better deal than libraries were expecting from Kasich. Lynda Murray of the Ohio Library Council gave another webcast about the budget last week, which had lots of useful info for anyone interested in the current state of public library funding in Ohio. Apparently, some were expecting cuts of 15-50%, forced consolidations, and a new formula for the Public Library Fund distributions – and evidently, Kasich has not called for any of that. Of course, the show’s not over yet. These are just the governor’s “recommendations.” The Ohio House and Senate still have until the end of June to duke it out over the details, so we’re not out of the woods yet.

Murray reminded everyone to be as non-partisan as possible, since public libraries are traditionally supported by both Republicans and Democrats in various ways. “We’re Switzerland,” she said. 🙂

Kasich did propose some changes to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) that could be problematic, according to this OPERS blog post. Kasich proposes that instead of the 10/14 split currently in effect (employee contributes 10%, employer contributes 14%), to change it to an even 12/12. This is a problem because it causes two bits of Ohio law work against each other: state pension funds must be able to pay their “unfunded liabilities” within 30 years; but employee contributions can only be put towards that employee’s pension, while this “unfunded liabilities” bit is one of the things covered by the employers’ contributions. So if the employee’s part is increased and the employer part is decreased, that extends the timeline necessary to cover the “unfunded liabilities.” (If I’m understanding this correctly, I guess you could think of it like a car loan – if you start making smaller payments, it’s going to take longer to pay off.) So anyway – don’t know how they’re going to handle that, but it sounds like something’s got to give (either the proposal or the law) in order for it to legally work out.

I haven’t heard much about SB 5 (the collective bargaining bill) lately. I suppose all this business with Japanese earthquake and Libyan civil war is making the collective bargaining disputes look like small potatoes to the media outlets – as it probably should! but nonetheless the media hysteria has died down a bit. I think the hearings are still going on in Ohio; I’m sure we’ll hear more when the thing either passes or fails. I know we haven’t heard the last of SB 5.

No strikes

Today I read this Columbus Dispatch article about the latest chapter in the saga of Ohio SB 5. Apparently, now they are talking about not eliminating state workers’ bargaining rights completely, but they could only bargain for wages, and SB 5 would now “prohibit all public workers from striking.” Again, I’m often unclear on which groups they are referring to when they talk about this bill, since part of it covers “state government workers” and some of it covers “local government workers”. But I guess the use of the word “all” should be pretty clear.

I’m not exactly clear on how this would actually affect workers at my library. We already have the following article in effect in our collecting bargaining agreement:


A. During the term of the Agreement, there shall be no lockout, no strike, no sympathy strike, no concerted action in failing to report to duty, no failure to report to duty, no willful absence from a bargaining unit member’s position, no stoppage of work, no slow down or absence in whole or part from the full, faithful and proper performance of duties of employment. Any employee violating the provisions of this Article may be disciplined.

B. The Union and the Library agree that they shall at all times cooperate to see that operations are continued in a normal manner and shall actively discourage and endeavor to prevent or terminate any violations of the Article. In the event of any violation of this Article, the Union agrees it will immediately take all affirmative steps with the employees involved to correct the violation and to bring about an immediate resumption of the operations of the Dayton Metro Library.

C. The no strike provisions of this Article shall not apply to any interim negotiations conducted in accordance with any provision of this Agreement. With respect to such negotiations, employees shall have the right to strike in accordance with Chapter 4117 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Maybe this new revision to SB 5 would remove even the limited “right to strike” discussed in Article 57, paragraph C? I really don’t know. (Wouldn’t it be nice if these legal-ese things were written in plain English?)

In any event, I have always thought the interplay between the fact that we bother having a union and the fact that Article 57 even exists…was a little strange. Let me be clear: I’m not saying that I want to strike or necessarily that I think we “should” have the right to strike or anything like that. I’m just saying, I always thought that striking was the main recourse that unions were supposed to have: you force everyone to be in a union; if conditions become “intolerable” (in the union’s eyes), the union strikes; this shuts down the organization and is supposed to force a negotiation.

Again, let me be clear: I’m not saying that public workers should be allowed to do that. But I have always thought it was strange that a place would bother to have a union but that it would be one unable to strike.

In the article I referenced above, Ohio Senate minority leader Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, called the changes to SB 5 “window dressing” and elaborated further: “You can’t sort of half do (collective bargaining). You can’t say, ‘You can collective bargain but, oh by the way, you can’t strike’.” That’s kind of what I was thinking. But then again, what do I know?