It looked like SB 5, Ohio’s anti-union bill, would have some hurdles to clear in order to pass. However, in quick-strike fashion yesterday, it cleared them, and the bill will now go to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The two houses of the Ohio Legislature approved a far-reaching bill on Wednesday that would hobble the ability of public-employee unions to bargain collectively and undercut their political clout.
They sent the bill to Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, who lawmakers said would sign it in the next few days [...]
The bill would bar public employees from striking and would prohibit binding arbitration for police officers and firefighters. It would allow bargaining over wages, but not health coverage and pensions and would allow public-employee unions to bargain only when the public employer chose to do so [...]
James Brudney, a labor law professor at Ohio State University, said the bill effectively crippled collective bargaining. “There’s a kind of mask or illusion element in this,” he said. “The essence of collective bargaining is when you can’t agree on terms of a contract, you have a dispute resolution mechanism, by strikes or perhaps binding arbitration. Here, you have none of that. That’s not collective bargaining. I’d call it collective begging. It’s a conversation that ends whenever an employer decides that it ends.”
The bill changed from the version that passed the Senate. Police and firefighters can still collectively bargain for safety equipment, for example. And workers who strike cannot receive jail time. But other pieces were made even stricter, particularly on decertification and a bar on nonunion employees covered by union contracts from paying fees to unions.
The House passed the bill 53-44, with 5 Republicans opposing. The Senate again passed the bill by 1 vote, 17-16, with 6 Republicans opposing.
Opposition protesters lustily booed from the gallery during the debate, a sign that the public is at odds with its elected representatives on this issue. And they’re going to get an opportunity to make their displeasure heard. In Ohio, you can put a referendum on the ballot for any piece of legislation. This blocks implementation until the outcome of the citizen veto. If the legislature waited until April 6 to pass the bill into law, that referendum would have been placed on the November 2012 ballot. As it is, with Gov. Kasich expected to sign the bill this week, it will go on the November 2011 ballot, alongside multiple municipal elections. And every municipal leader in Ohio, many of them with large contingents of public employees, will have to explain where they stand, in the midst of a re-election, on stripping collective bargaining rights from workers.
This will begin with a rally as early as next weekend. It will be a sustained, seven-month campaign that gives the new, energized progressive alliance in Ohio a goal on which to focus. This will be another battle for the future of the labor movement.