What Does Issue 2 Really Mean? Ohio’s November 2011 Election
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2011. In the state of Ohio, one issue, Issue 2 in particular (concerning Senate Bill 5), may seem confusing to some voters. Does Issue 2 matter to you? Well, maybe or maybe not. Are you a taxpayer? Are you a public entity or private business employee? Are you a negotiator or union representative? Are you a government administrator? Citizens of Ohio know this … voting is serious, no matter what the outcome or who it ultimately affects. If you are heading to the polls this Election Day, Issue 2 is the hot topic in the Buckeye State.
Senate Bill 5: The Background
Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 (SB5) into law on March 31, 2011. The law, which was to have gone into effect on July 1st, limits collective bargaining for public employee unions that represent roughly 360,000 firefighters, teachers, police officers and other state employees. The employees and their unions cannot negotiate their wages but they can bargain for benefits such as pensions and health care. A “yes” vote on Issue 2 would solidify the law; a “no” vote would repeal the law.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the wording of Senate Bill 5 would “ban strikes by public workers and eliminate binding arbitration to settle disputes involving safety forces, and instead, allow a governing body to implement its own last offer.” The Dispatch says a “yes” vote on Issue 2 would “require workers to pay at least 15 percent of health-insurance costs, no longer allow employers to pick up a portion of an employee’s pension contribution, institute merit pay and eliminate seniority as the sole factor for determining the order of layoffs.” (SB 5 Debate Prompts Both Sides to Talk of Fairness; Columbus Dispatch; September 23, 2011).
Pension pickups (employers paying a share of public employees’ pension contributions) and health care would also become non-negotiable unless management agreed to place the issues on the bargaining table. In other words, employers (like city governments and school districts) would not be required to bargain on particular subjects such as hours, wages and terms of employment.
In This Corner …
We are Ohio, one of the political action groups that wants voters to repeal the law (by voting “no” on Issue 2), says Senate Bill 5 decides which topics and issues are negotiable only if management allows them to be and thus, the law gives management more power at the negotiating table. Police officers, firefighters, prison guards, public schoolteachers and other public servants would be affected.
The people who want to repeal Senate Bill 5 say it “is an attack on Ohio’s middle class.” One political advertisement says “Firefighters, police, nurses, teachers and other public servants have taken pay freezes and furlough days without pay, saving taxpayers $350 million.”
And In This Corner ...
Building a Better Ohio, one of the political action groups that wants voters to vote “yes” on Issue 2, says the amendment of Sec. 4117.08 of the Ohio Revised Code — when it goes into effect — will require public employees to pay a portion of their own health care and pension costs. Firefighters, police officers and other public safety employees are already prohibited from striking, but the PAC organization says SB5 restricts state and local government non-safety personnel from striking on issues of wages and benefits.
The people who want Senate Bill 5 to become law say it “empowers the middle class with reasonable reforms to the growing cost of government pay, pensions and health insurance coverage, which now consume as much as 80 percent of some local budgets.” They dispute opponents’ charges that State Issue 2 would remove the rights of unions and their workers to negotiate contracts because representatives are able and would continue to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions.
In a Very Small Nutshell:
Ohio’s Senate Bill 5: Among other things, a “yes” vote on Issue 2 means …
- Public employer contributions would be limited to 85 percent toward health care benefit costs
- Public workers would be prohibited from striking (safety forces are prohibited; this would apply to non-safety employees
- Removal of the “seniority” level of length of service when determining layoffs and merit earnings
- The requirement of performance/merit-based pay for teachers
- Allowing public employers to refuse bargaining on hours, terms of employment and wages.
Ohio’s Senate Bill 5: Among other things, a “no” vote on Issue 2 would …
Repeal the law (as it currently is); section 4117.08 of the Ohio Revised Code, pertaining to public sector employees. For more information on the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining law, visit http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4117.08. Public sector employees would not be restricted in their bargaining processes (based on the wording of the current law) or be required to pay for a portion of benefits unless contractually obligated.
More Senate Bill 5 Information
Senate Bill 5 contains about 300 pages; interpretations of the law vary (as do the political ads that fuel both sides of the fence). For more information on the “cut and dry” and presumably unbiased interpretations of the issue, visit www.politifact.com/ohio. Search “Issue 2” for a breakdown on what advertisements are saying in an effort to get your support.
The Ohio Revised Code section on Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4117.08) specifies the current law that was signed in March.
*Senate Bill 5 does not eliminate insurance coverage or pension money to government employees. It does ask them to contribute 15 percent or more of their earnings to pay toward the insurance and 10 percent toward pensions. Currently, taxpayers pay for all of it. (If you think employees should pay toward their health insurance costs and pension contributions, vote Yes. If you think complete health care costs and pension contributions should be included in the workers’ benefits packages, vote No).
* If the law is not repealed, government employees (fire and police workers, public schoolteachers, prison guards and others who are paid with taxpayer dollars) would have "weaker" positions when bargaining with the state because management must agree to talk about certain topics — these topics could be eliminated from the bargaining process. (If you think public sector employees (unions) should be able to fully negotiate their contracts, vote No. If you think public sector management should have the final say on what can be negotiated, vote Yes).
Hello, Teri here … In general, when I write an article, I want it to be “evergreen” — something that would be just as topical and current in 10 years as it is today. But when it comes to voting, it is important to know as much as possible about the issues — and all their angles.
Remember … vote the way YOU want to vote. It’s not always easy, but learn the facts about any and all issues. No one can tell you what to think or how to vote. It is YOUR decision, no one else’s. Of course I have my own opinion — which I won’t share with you here — but because I am a trained and experienced journalist, I strive to present information without bias. I hope voters will read everything they can about both sides of any and all issues before choosing. I hope all voters will choose their positions based on facts — not propaganda. I hope that all of us will be informed voters and ignore all the “polls” that claim support or failure of an issue or candidate before the votes are tallied. Election Day is OUR day!
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