As we approach the November elections, the campaigns for and against Senate Bill 5 are gaining more attention.
The Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce's (the "Chamber") mission is to serve our member investors and promote business interests through economic development, business advocacy and member services, all of which benefit the greater Mid-Ohio community. Although the Chamber has not taken a formal position, our Board of Directors has agreed that we should educate our members on this issue in an effort to bring the facts to light.
This November voters will be asked to vote on Issue 2, which is the enactment or repeal of Senate Bill 5 (SB 5). A "yes" vote means that you want to enact SB 5; a "No" vote means you want to repeal SB 5.
Let's look at what SB 5, if approved by the voters, will mean for the State of Ohio, first by looking at who will be impacted by Senate Bill 5. Those workers who are employed by "public employers" that is defined as the state or any political subdivision of the state located entirely within the state. In more simple terms, they are employees of the government, at the local or state level. It is the police and fire, the city and county workers, and the employees of the public schools. It is the employees who work under a contract negotiated by the union representatives and the government entity. There are approximately 359,500 government employees in Ohio's workforce of 5.5 million people.
SB 5 does not impact any labor agreements between private sector employers and the employees in unions such as the UAW, Steelworkers, Plumbers and Pipefitters, UA, IBEW, etc. SB 5 relates only to collective bargaining by public employees.
What changes will SB5 bring? Public sector employees continue to have the right to join a union and to have the union negotiate for wages, hours and working conditions. SB 5 does not cut salaries or benefits for any government employee. Employees would simply be asked to pay a modest share of their benefits, just like employees in the private sector do. It asks public employees to pay a minimum of 15% of their health insurance cost and that the same health care benefits provided to management level employees also be provided to the other employees of the same public employer. It changes how teachers' pay is determined, eliminating pay based on seniority, instead teachers' pay raises will be awarded on merit.
Ohio's public safety employees are already prohibited from striking; SB 5 extends that prohibition to all state and local public employees. This is similar to the federal prohibition of strikes by our federal public employees. It revises the process for contract disputes. Under SB 5, elected officials at the state and local levels would be given the authority to resolve contract disputes with public employees. It eliminates binding arbitration.
What does SB 5 do for local governments? Local communities are struggling to balance their budgets and hard-working safety personnel are being laid off across the state. SB 5 would provide some reasonable reforms and give local officials more tools to get costs under control. SB 5 allows our local elected officials and school systems to better manage the funds they receive from the taxpayers.
An analysis and summary of SB5 can be found www.legislature.state.oh.us.
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.