Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 may have passed but its implementation may take a while, partly because many people don’t understand what it’s about. Something of an understatement because it’s seriously doubtful that even those in the Ohio legislature have read the entire bill ‘” last known to be more than 500 pages in length.
Known as the Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill, it pertains only to public workers employed by the state of Ohio and bans collective bargaining only in regard to benefits. The bill does not restrict negotiations for working conditions, hours and wages. It does, however, prohibit public employees from going on strike.
Public employees are getting support from the private sector as well since one of the arguments against the bill is that it may set a dangerous precedent. Opponents worry that if public labor unions are blocked, then, eventually, the same thing will happen in private industry.
While less than 8 percent of private workers in the United States are covered by union contracts, more than 40 percent of state public employees enjoy union representation. Collective bargaining gives workers a unified voice when negotiating for acceptable working conditions, competitive wages and benefits.
Unions typically form around a particular industry, like auto workers, electricians and so on. Public labor unions, like those for teachers, police and firefighters, started out small in the mid-nineteenth century, but the larger unions first formed in the early 20th century.
Debates over the collective bargaining issue generally include words like, “deserve,” “earned,” and “entitled,” and herein lays a fundamental problem. Outside of a fair, competitive wage in exchange for a predetermined quantity of labor, no one is entitled to anything.
Benefits are just that – bonus material used to entice the most desirable percentage of job seekers to want to work for one employer over another. A job benefits package is neither an entitlement program nor a personal windfall approved by public referendum to be funded from the pockets of the taxpayer.
Generally speaking, in order for a worker in the private sector to get a raise, promotion or even retain a non-union job, they are rewarded according to performance. Any bargaining that may take place is done using privately earned, commercial revenue.
In the public sector, unions and employers bargain with taxpayer money. Considering that it’s nearly hopeless to expect government officials to act responsibly with money in the first place, perhaps they should look in the mirror.
If the state legislatures want to save money, maybe they should start by cutting their own salaries and benefits. Another suggested solution is to put an end to teacher tenure in any school district funded by the taxpayer. Tenure would have to be eliminated at any public facility as well as all taxpayer funded charter schools and those private institutions that accept vouchers from the public treasury.
One more sharply contested option is to require that not just some but all public employees be paid on the basis of their job performance. Proponents can generally argue in favor of performance pay for many positions, but nearly always hit a wall when it comes to teachers.
Unlike other professions, a teacher’s performance depends not just on their own competence, but also on the inherent talents, intelligence, efforts and living environment of his or her students. How to grade a teacher on performance is a hotly debated topic between the unions and the legislature in virtually every state.
Without question, states need to slash budgets to make ends meet and other areas could certainly use as much reduction as public labor. But in Ohio, many non-union workers pay an average of 33 percent of the cost of their health insurance benefits compared to the 9 percent paid out by public workers. Collective bargaining is crucial to ensuring safe working conditions and fair labor practices, but when it forces taxpayers to subsidize employee benefits it is just plain unreasonable.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Greene County. For more visit www.deerinheadlines.com.