On February 9, 2011, Senator Shannon Jones (R – Springboro) introduced Senate Bill 5. It contains significant changes to Ohio’s State Employment Relations Act, the law that governs public employee labor/management relations. Labor unions decried the proposal, and hundreds of union members appeared at the initial hearing of the bill.
The law amends several provisions of the Ohio Revised Code and runs for 475 pages. As it pertains to the State Employment Relations Act, however, Senate Bill 5 (pdf) would:
- Prohibit a state institution of higher education, the state itself, and any agency, authority, commission, or board of the state from collectively bargaining with its employees.
- Alter the procedures applicable once the parties reach an impasse in their negotiations.
- Change the definition of "supervisor" as it applies to police officers.
- Limit bargaining on health care benefits to just the question of how much the public employee must pay for employer-provided coverage, and prohibiting any agreement that would permit the public employee to pay less than 20% of that cost.
- Prevent public school districts from agreeing in a labor contract to a laundry list of proposals, including those that would require minimum staffing, maximum number of students per class, or limit the ability to transfer staff between buildings.
- Take away the authority of a public school district to negotiate over salaries or health insurance benefits.
- Direct public employers not to agree to a provision that would require the public employer to consider only length of service in any reduction-in-force.
- Abolish Ohio’s Office of Collective Bargaining.
Governor Kasich who has previously signaled his support for reform of Ohio’s public employee union system, voiced his support for the bill. Interestingly, however, it appears that the Governor may also have his own ideas on public sector labor law reform. These go well beyond what Senate Bill 5 proposes. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Governor is considering legislation that would outlaw strikes for all public employees, not just for certain groups of public employees, as is the case in the proposed Senate bill.
If Senate Bill 5 passes in its current form, the implications for public sector labor relations will be substantial. Indeed, the list above contains only some highlights, it is not even a comprehensive catalogue of all the changes proposed. The public sector labor professional will need to monitor the legislative process closely, and may want to consider the impact of these changes on any unionized component of their workforce.