Monday, March 21, 2011

Ohio Senate Bill 5 At A Glance

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

---George Santayana

In rain during a dark night, enter that darkness.


An Englishman and an Indian were sitting in a garden together, and the Hindu was trying to explain basic Indian philosophy to the Englishman. "Look," he said, "there is a hedge at the end of the garden---against what do you see the hedge?"
"Against the hills," said the Englishman.
"And what do you see the hills against?"
"Against the sky."
"And what do you see the sky against?"
The Englishman had no answer, so the Hindu said: "You see it against consciousness."

---Indian mondo

Ohio Senate Bill 5, having passed our Senate by 1 vote, currently has moved to the Ohio House where testimony is taking place before the Commerce and Labor Committee. Hundreds of citizens have signed up to testify, but only the first dozen or so who manage to arrive at the Statehouse each day get in. Unlike other committee sessions of the Legislature, Ohio Government Television is not broadcasting these public hearings...nor can more than a couple dozen people get in the room. The Committee has promised to finish its work on the bill by the end of March. Upon passage Governor Kasich will sign it and, unless there is a referendum, it becomes law. The deadline for petition application for a referendum in November 2011 is April 6th.

Senate Bill 5 would affect all employees whose wages, health, safety, pension benefits and vacation and sick time are compensated in any way by the State of Ohio. The bill is 500 pages long. An attorney for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association told a group on Saturday it took him 2 days to read it. I spent an afternoon on it just to see what's in it besides union negotiation. There's a lot! If you want to get an idea of what I mean, take a look~~~

Here is a quick summary, as provided by OCSEA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, who are opposed to the bill~~~

1) Bargaining unit state employees do NOT have the right to bargain about the following:
* Privatization of a public employer's services or contracting out of work
* Staffing
* Joint Health Care Committee
* Layoff by seniority
* Promotional Qualifications
* Starting and Quitting times
* Number of hours worked by employees
* Shift assignments
* Assignment of Overtime (and any payment beyond 1 1/2 times rate)
* Pick-a-Post
* Labor Management Committees about any prohibited topics
* Following the Work when Contracted Out
* Past Practices

2) Healthcare
* Employee share of health care premium MUST be at least 15%
* No ability to bargain health care plan design

3) Equipment & Safety
* Cannot bargain minimum staffing requirements
* May only bargain equipment (including personal protective equipment) if management chooses to do so

4) Fiscal Emergency
* Governor can declare a fiscal emergency and void ANY and EVERY provision of the contract

5) Reduces Benefits
* Vacation Accrual is reduced to 7.7 hours at 19 years of service
* Sick Leave cashout at retirement is reduced to a 1000 hour cap at 50%
* No longevity or step increases
* Maximum sick leave accrual is reduced to 3.1 hours
* Personal Leave is limited to 3 days per year
* Merit pay increases only

6) Fact-finding/Dispute Settlement/Strike
* All Strikes are ILLEGAL with possible jail time and fine for violations
* If Fact-Finder's report is rejected, parties appeal to legislative body (same body that voted on Fact-Finder Report) to pick which last offer to choose (management or union)
* No Conciliation
* No informational Pickets

Unlike Wisconsin, in Ohio there is referendum but not recall. Therefore, the issue of SB5 can be put to a statewide vote, and a petition for that action is being planned~~~

What is a Statewide Referendum? It is:
* A challenge to a bill recently passed by the Ohio General Assembly (Senate and House) and signed into law by the Governor
* A citizen-initiated request that the law in question be the subject of a statewide vote
* A referendum "stays" the bill until the people have voted, so that the bill cannot be implemented

Process (limited to 90 days, which begins when the Governor signs the bill):
1. The initial petition application must be approved by both the Secretary of State (Husted-R) and the Attorney General (DeWine-R)
2. Then, petition signatures are gathered. Number of signatures needed:
a) 6% of the total number of votes cast for the Office of Governor in the last gubernatorial election, including
b) out of the total number, signatures from 3% of the votes cast in at least 44 of the 88 counties
3. Consequently, more than 450,000 signatures will be needed to ensure the requirements are met

Between now and April 6th, information will become available widely on how interested citizens, on either side of the controversy, can help. If the Governor does not sign by that day, a referendum would be held in November 2012, a presidential election year. The law still would not go into effect, pending results of that referendum. We believe Mr. Kasich will sign within the next 2 1/2 weeks. Comments and replies of course are welcome.