One of the most emotionally charged bills being considered ths year in our state legislature is SB 5, which would make major changes to laws on how elected and appointed public service leaders work with their employees.
Although this is being posted on Monday, perhaps a day before the House makes major changes to the bill, this information, taken verbatim, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer article will be helpful to those who are trying to learn from more objective sources, what the bill does and does not do, as it pass the Ohio Senate and came to the Ohio House.
What's really in Senate Bill 5? Clearing up the rumors, misinformation surrounding collective bargaining overhaul
Published: Sunday, March 20, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011, 5:40 PM
By Joe Guillen, The Plain Dealer
What's in SB 5
•Collective bargaining rights reduced for all Ohio public workers
SB 5 preserves wording from Ohio's existing collective bargaining law that gives public workers the right to collectively bargain wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. However, the bill contains numerous exceptions -- some broad in scope -- that severely limit, or outright prohibit, the terms and conditions subject to collective bargaining. For example, SB 5 lists 15 topics that management can refuse to negotiate. These issues include employees' qualifications and work assignments. The bill also lists topics that cannot be negotiated under any circumstances, including health care benefits costs (locked in at a minimum 15-percent employee contribution) and the number of workers required to be on duty or employed in any department of a public employer.
•Safety forces could lose right to negotiate for protective equipment
This has been a contentious issue between some Republicans and opponents of the bill. At the heart of the disagreement are two topics of negotiation that employers can refuse to discuss under the bill: "the type of equipment used" and "the making of technological alterations by revising either process or equipment or both." Police and fire unions have said this could allow management to provide lower quality safety equipment, such as bulletproof vests. Republicans who support the bill, including Senate President Tom Niehaus, deny that employers can take safety equipment off the bargaining table under SB 5. Niehaus suggested the issue is subject to legal interpretation, and said any problem would be remedied before the bill becomes law. He said Senate Republicans never intended to compromise safety equipment for police officers and firefighters.
•Workers who strike could be jailed
SB 5 bans all public workers from striking and establishes penalties for violating the ban. Under current law, only certain workers, such as police and firefighters, cannot strike. Under SB 5, employers could obtain a court order to halt any strike. Workers who violate the court order and continue to strike could be subject to a $1,000 fine and/or punishments in state law for contempt of court. A first offense for contempt is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to a $250 fine.
•Teachers could not negotiate class sizes
Among the topics teachers cannot collectively bargain in SB 5 is "a maximum number of students who may be assigned to a classroom or teacher."
•Teachers' salaries tied to test scores
SB 5 sets standards of performance that will determine how much teachers are paid. The standards are: the teacher's level of license; whether the teacher is considered a "highly qualified teacher," as defined by law; a "value-added measure" of student performance; teacher evaluations; and any other criteria the school board establishes. The performance-based salary schedules will vary by school district, but standardized test scores are a type of value-added measurement elsewhere in Ohio law.
•Public university professors could lose collective bargaining rights
A provision of the bill aims to address the management-like authority afforded some unionized college professors. The language in the bill mirrors a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case involving Yeshiva University, a small, private school in New York City. In that case, the court ordered the decertification of the faculty union after determining faculty members were performing significant managerial functions involving tenure, hiring and curriculum. SB 5 would classify professors who participate in such activities as "management level" workers and, therefore, exempt from collective bargaining rights.
What's not in SB 5
•Teachers' salaries cut in half
Currently, a salary scale for teachers is set in state law. The scale dictates the minimum amount teachers can be paid, $17,300, and lays out pay raises based on experience and level of college degree. Many school districts, however, have adopted their own salary scale, through collective bargaining, to replace the state's scale. SB 5 completely removes the scale from state law. In its place, the bill establishes performance-based criteria for teachers' raises. The bill does not establish a new minimum or maximum salary that teachers will be paid. That will be up to individual school districts. Once existing contracts expire, school districts would set their own pay scales, including a minimum salary, through negotiations with teachers' unions. If the two sides cannot agree on a pay scale, the school board would act as the final decision-maker. SB 5 establishes a new method of dispute resolution that requires an employer's legislative body -- commonly a school board or a city council -- to settle disputes.
•Pension benefits cut
The bill does not require public employees to pay any more or less toward their pensions. Under current law, public workers contribute up to 10 percent of their paycheck toward their pensions and their employers must pay 14 percent. These percentages can be adjusted under current law through labor negotiations using "pension pick-ups" -- a practice by which employers agree to pay a portion of the employees' 10 percent contribution. SB 5 outlaws "pension pick-ups" but it does not increase the standard 10 percent pension contribution public employees are expected to make, nor does it reduce management's contribution.
•Domestic partner benefits eliminated
According to a Feb. 21 e-mail from Equality Ohio, urging opposition to SB 5, the bill "contains language that could impact current and future domestic partner benefits for LGBT employees." There is nothing, however, in SB 5 that specifically targets the LGBT community. Confusion arose when an earlier version of the bill was under consideration in the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee. That version restated the existing Ohio marriage law, including the state's policy against extending benefits in same-sex relationships.The latest version of SB 5, as it was passed in the Senate, removed any reference to Ohio's marriage law. Equality Ohio remains opposed to the bill because collective bargaining is often the only way members of the LGBT community can receive domestic partner benefits.
•Existing collective bargaining agreements eliminated
SB 5 is not retroactive. If the bill passes, all public employees' collective bargaining agreements in place before the law takes effect would not be changed. However, once SB 5 takes effect, if it passes, provisions in previous contracts would not automatically be subject to future negotiations. SB 5 removes language from the existing collective bargaining law that forces both sides to negotiate terms agreed upon in the prior contract.
•Teachers required to pay for substitutes out of their own pockets
There is nothing in the bill that would set such a policy, despite a rumor that has been circulating among teachers. But union leaders fear school districts could eventually set their own rules because they say SB 5 tips the scales so drastically in management's favor. The provision stoking these worries allows management to refuse to collectively bargain "any and all reasonable rules and regulations.""They define reasonable," Sean Grayson, general counsel for AFSCME Ohio Council 8, said. That means an employer could say, "I've got this reasonable work rule and we're not going to bargain about it," Grayson said.
•Workers' sick leave allowances eliminated
SB 5 does not eliminate sick leave, but it reduces the amount of sick leave afforded most local government employees from three weeks a year to two weeks. State workers currently get two weeks of sick leave per year.