On March 31, 2011, Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law.  Governor Kasich’s signature ends the legislative process that began earlier this year.  As is usually the case, the bill changed significantly from the beginning to the end of the process, starting out by eliminating bargaining entirely for certain state employees.  The legislative process ended, however, by preserving collective bargaining, but narrowing the range of topics on which a public employer can negotiate with a union representing its employees.  Watch this blog early next week for additional details on the significant provisions of Senate Bill 5, as signed by the Governor.

Opponents of the legislation have vowed to take their arguments directly to the voters.  Under Ohio law, newly enacted legislation can be subject to a statewide ballot referendum.  If the required signatures are obtained, Ohio voters will get the chance to vote on the law this November.  Thus, while the legislative process may be over, the battle over public sector collective bargaining appears set to continue.

PROMISED UPDATE (4/5/2011):  Here is a summary of some of the more significant provisions of Senate Bill 5:

  • No Fair Share Fee – A collective bargaining agreement for public employees may not require non-union members to pay the union a fee for representation services.
  • Easier to Decertify – Decertification of a public employee union requires petition signatures from only 30% of workers in the collective bargaining unit, as opposed to the previous requirement of 50%.
  • No Automatic Pay Increases for Longevity – Instead, the bill institutes a performance pay system for all public workers and requires that layoffs no longer be based solely on seniority.
  • Scope of Bargaining Narrowed – Bargaining about health care, sick leave, and pension benefits is limited. For public school teachers, the law removes additional issues from collective bargaining.
  • No Strikes – It is unlawful for any public employee to strike.
  • Employee Health Care Cost Minimum – The bill requires public workers to pay at least 15% of their health care costs.
  • Eliminates Binding Arbitration – The bill eliminates binding arbitration as a means of resolving bargaining disputes. Instead, in all public collective bargaining negotiations, the bill adopts mediation and fact-finding as the means to resolve contract disputes. However, if either the employer or the union rejects the fact finder’s recommendation, then the last, best offers made by both sides are presented at a public hearing. At the hearing’s conclusion, the legislative body of the employer is required to accept either its final offer or the union’s.

In addition, The Columbus Dispatch reports today that opponents have gathered enough signatures to take the first step towards putting the law on the November 2011 ballot; and at the same time, three large public unions are contemplating charging union members a special fee to finance the campaign against the law.