Issue 2 has raised safety concerns for firefighters, law enforcement officers and other public employees. We are asking the public to vote "no" on Issue 2. The pro 2 advocates would have us believe that the workplace will be a safer place if the issue is passed. The vagueness of the law guarantees nothing. The law should have been only about financial reform. But during the crafting of the bill SB5, it was twisted into a law that takes away almost all collective bargaining rights of the employees. Employees receive wages and any negotiated benefits in exchange for services provided to the public. Issue 2 tilts the bargaining table heavily towards the employer's side of resolution. Topics such as equipment, training, safety clothing, work environment, working hours and available manpower are no longer available to directly bargain "Unless" the Employer allows such items. Issue 2 takes off the table the negotiating of and current contract language which guarantees "safety" for employees. It only allows bargaining for wages. The employer will have final authority over any impasses, and thus prohibits independent, non-affiliated, unbiased third parties from helping reach a mutually beneficial solution to taxpayers. It is like going to divorce court and finding that the judge is your ex-spouse.
Lobbying for safety gear has always started with the employees. Council members, mayors or commissioners don't advocate safety gear. Items such as breathing air packs, steel toe fire boots, fire resistive uniforms, chemical suits and (fire battle) turnout gear are typically negotiated in contracts. Before collective bargaining, in 1970 there were only 2 air packs per station. To get a basic necessity, the men were forced to give up a pay raise to get the protective gear. That quantity has since increased because of collective bargaining. But due to a lack of equipment for every person our unprotected, firefighters receive lung damage when exposed to smoke, gases and other byproducts from fires and chemical spills. Sadly, that scenario is repeated across Ohio. Chiefs may recognize and try to protect their people. They request sufficient numbers of safety gear in yearly budgets only be denied when dollars are whittled down by people with no concept of equipment needed to safely work. Minimal manning is also addressed in many contracts. With Issue 2 these bean counters will have free rein to schedule manpower below safe levels by not following current contract language. Shift officers currently dispatch safe manpower on fire trucks and extra EMT's on ambulances for conditions like heart attacks or car accidents. Officers will have little if any voice if manning is reduced.
Issue 2 prohibits any officer above the rank of firefighter, patrolman, deputy or state trooper from being represented by a union. Locally seven fire department and 20 police, deputy office and state patrol officers are affected by the issue. Traditionally shift officers are an advocate for both the public and their subordinates. Issue 2 will muzzle their voices. There is no economic savings by this move. It divides and reduces union forces. This item is pure union busting.
Merit pay is unlikely to work for firefighters and police as a system. It has been 30 years since Marietta hired its first paramedic. City council has never agreed to pay additional merit to any of the paramedics, advanced EMTs or any other member who increased level of service to the taxpayer by learning a broader or more advanced level of skills. But Marietta's general fund continues to receive third party billing extra income from Paramedic/Advanced care. Past practice is a road map as to how our leaders will continue to deal with the employees.
Insurance is another issue in the bill. Pro 2 advocates mislead the public when they say if Issue 2 fails that the taxpayer will pay 100 percent of health care costs. Statewide the employees currently pay an average of 10.7 percent for family coverage, according to the State Employment Relations Board. Issue 2 raises the public sector workers portion to 15 percent. Many unions have already given this concession for their coverage. Collective Bargaining has saved Marietta serious money. Today, the city of Marietta working with its employees through the collective bargaining process is not paying any more in insurance premiums than it was in 2007. When Issue 2 is promoted, it's backers fail to mention are the savings of Collective Bargaining for Marietta and the continuing concessions of employees.
Another contention is that some local governments are picking up part of the employees share of their pension. While on the surface this may not seem right, but there is logic behind it. By law the employee pays 10 percent of their salary into the pension system. Over the years the employer, instead of giving for instance, a 3 percent raise on gross salary which with "back end costs" would actually cost the local government about 4 percent, instead they would offer to "pick up" 3 percent of the employee's part of the pension. Thus avoiding "back end costs" and therefore saving the taxpayers money. Issue 2 makes it illegal for local governments to pick up any of the employees part of their pension. Therefore some employees would be losing what was intended to be a raise negotiated in good faith. The cities would be losing an avenue to save money and keep overall pension costs down. According to a report from the state's five public pension systems, only 6.6 percent of public workers have individual or union contracts that call for the employer to pick-up part or the entire employee share.
Older firefighters are more prone to a higher frequency of injuries, illness, death and other safety issues. These factors led the Ohio Pension system to allow firefighters to retire sooner. To retire Ohio requires that firefighters or peace officers must have 25 years of service and be at least 48 years old. During 25 years of service a Marietta firefighter works the equivalence of 33.1 years of the standard 40 hour week. Our firefighters work 2,756 hours yearly (53 hours average x 52 weeks). This is 32 percent more hours than standard employees' 2080 hours yearly (40 hours x 52 weeks). A schedule of 24 hours on, 48 hours off is the cheapest way to provide our citizens the best service. This allows less manpower to cover the calendar, less training, uniforms, purchased equipment; therefore less insurance enrollees with benefits needed. This is a savings for the city.
Issue 2 isn't fair in that it doesn't ask, but forces our public employees to carry this very heavy burden to balance Ohio's financial problems. It attempts to balance years of over spending by elected officials. Issue 2 squarely places excessive financial sacrifice on the backs of unionized, government employees. The forced sacrifice made by public employees hasn't a plan for restoration of earnings or benefits after our economy recovers.
This temporary answer by legislators to prop up the budget doesn't fix the spending problem. If Ohio is on the edge of financial disaster, then why did Gov. Kasich and the legislators give pay raises to staff in their offices and cabinets? Are the administrative and legislative branches exempt from the burdens that they impose on others?
Protect those who serve and protect the public.
Vote "no" on Issue 2.
Eric Moore is president of the Marietta Firefighters IAFF Local 442.