John F. Kennedy said, "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." While Issue 2 on this November's ballot has generated a lot of media coverage about Senate Bill 5 (SB5), it is not always easy trying to separate facts from political rhetoric. The Marietta Area Chamber is using the text of SB5 bill as the reference document plus scouring other sources, both supporting and opposing its enactment, for this three-part series on Issue 2.
After the first two Viewpoint articles in The Marietta Times, we received several questions. Are all public employees members of unions? There are 697,700 employees of state and local governments; of those, 358,270 are covered under union contracts. Collective bargaining for wages, hours, terms, and conditions of employment are still negotiable. Although health benefits are non-negotiable, SB5 requires that any health care benefits provided to management level staff be the same as health care benefits provided for other employees. Safety equipment for public employees may still be negotiated as Section 4117.08 (f) states" ... equipment issues directly related to personal safety are subject to collective bargaining."
SB5 requires that public employees pay 15 percent of their health insurance costs and 10 percent of their retirement benefit costs. Currently some of the contracts have the public employer picking up a portion of the workers' share; that would no longer be permitted.
Another question we received was about collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiation. The current collective bargaining law, passed in 1983, allows unions to bargain on a broad scope of items; SB5 limits those rights. Section 4117.14 of SB5 covers CBA negotiation. It is important to note that current agreements between public employers and public employees will remain in effect until their expiration date. Then, following a very specific time line, both the public employer and the public employees' union representative begin a process to secure a new CBA.
During the negotiation the state employment relations board may intervene and appoint a mediator to help resolve disputes; and, adding transparency to the process, the terms of the last offers of both the public employer and the union will be posted on a website of the state employment relations board and/or the public employer.
Either party may also request the appointment of a fact finder, who will gather the facts and make recommendations no later than 15 days prior to the expiration of the contract. If the recommendations are rejected, the report will be published and the state employment relations board will set up a procedure for the public employees to vote on the recommendation of the fact finder.
If there is still no agreement reached, there will be a public hearing for each side to present their best offers to the legislative body, which has 15 days to accept either of the last best offers of the pubic employer or the union. In the case of a school district, the legislative body will be the duly elected members of the school board. For city workers, it would be city council. The open hearing provides an opportunity for the teachers, workers, administrators, parents and taxpayers to be more directly involved in the decision.
One caller asked if SB5 eliminated family leave. SB5 does not eliminate federal laws pertaining to employment and work conditions, such as family leave, overtime pay, discrimination, and workplace safety. Public employees will have the same federal employment protection those in the private sector have. Civil service laws will also still apply.
The Ohio Secretary of State's website has the text of Senate Bill 5 plus statements of support and opposition to Issue 2 which is a referendum on SB5. The American Policy Roundtable, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy organization, has a special section on SB5 which can be found at ivoters.com/. They do not accept or solicit funds from any political parties or candidates.
The wording of Issue 2 on the November ballot is lengthy and may be confusing. Simply stated, Issue 2 is a referendum-driven vote on the SB5. If you want to support the reforms of SB5, vote yes on Issue 2. If you want to repeal SB5, vote no on Issue 2.
Charlotte Keim, CCEO-AP, is president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce, The Riverview Building, 100 Front St., Suite 200, Marietta. Chamber Viewpoint appears every other Monday on Opinion.