Ohio Needs SB 5. Support Issue 2.

Preface: Fiscal responsibility and sensible sharing of public costs are values eminently within Catholic social justice. So what I write here is entirely appropriate for a Catholic political site. –Tom Crowe

Ohioans are on the verge of a momentous vote. Issue 2 on tomorrow’s ballot is a referendum on Senate Bill 5. A Yes vote upholds the law; a no sends officials back to the drawing board to devise another way to save money the state so desperately needs to save.

Under the leadership of Governor John Kasich, who took the reins less than two years ago, Ohio has soared to number 5 in the country in job creation. Ohio has seen an $8 billion budget shortfall evaporate without raising taxes. And Ohio’s credit rating has been upgraded.

One of the keystones of further recovery is sensible reform of the relationship between public sector unions and their employers—ostensibly the voters and taxpayers.

At present, many of them pay less than 15 percent of their health care costs. Private sector workers pay at least that much, and frequently more. SB 5 raises their contribution to 15 percent across the board.

At present, many of them pay for little to none of their pension. Private sector workers, if they have a pension plan at all, pay into it. SB 5 will require public sector workers to pay a meager 10 percent rather than having the tax payer foot the entire bill.

SB 5 will not change unions’ ability to collectively bargain, but it will more specifically define what are the “terms and conditions” up for bargaining. Salary, benefits, retirement, vacation, and other basic aspects of employer-employee relationships will not be touched.

SB 5 will bring to the teaching profession in Ohio a feature, not a bug, of most every organization, especially those that are successful: performance evaluation and promotion based thereon. It does not specify the method of performance, but that is not its purpose. Evaluating and promoting based on performance can only mean the best teachers are teaching our children, regardless of seniority, and those teachers who have grown complacent, even if they once were great teachers, are encouraged to improve. The major beneficiaries of this system are our children, rather than teachers and the teachers’ union.

SB 5 will only prohibit strikes by those workers who are not already prohibited from striking. Public safety personnel already cannot strike, SB 5 will make it illegal for teachers and others to strike as well. This policy is in line with that of the federal government, by the way.

SB 5 will not ipso facto cut anyone’s salary or force fire departments and police departments to cut personnel. It will shift the power to make those decisions to the local government, particularly the fire chiefs and police department officials responsible for those local functions.  It gives them greater power—and greater responsibility—to make sure their employment levels are equal to the need for their services.

It has been endorsed by many major newspapers, including those in such union-heavy areas as Cleveland (with a great piece on what a “no” will mean), Warren (Youngstown area), Canton, and Wheeling (WV), and even the more “purple” Cincinnati and Columbus areas.

Tell you what. Get full details at BetterOhio.org. Check out the myths section, read the endorsements from the papers—who pay homage to the sensitive nature of the topic and great service our public employees provide, but who nevertheless recognize the need for common-sense reform. And they see this as that.

I wrote a piece on this site back during the Wisconsin brouhaha about the inherent difference between private sector and public sector unions. In short, when private sector employers begin promising salary and benefits, they can only promise according to the profitability and earnings of the company; whereas public sector management (i.e., elected politicians or bureaucrats) can simply raise taxes and fees to cover increased salaries. And then whom do you think the public-sector unions are going to support with their dues and activism? The latter relationship just begs for mutual back scratching: you promise us better benefits and we’ll promise to get you reelected, and all on the taxpayers’ dime.

And SB 5 isn’t even going to end that relationship entirely, just limit the parameters within which the public sector negotiations can take place.

It is a good measure with sensible reforms that Ohio needs. SB 5 and therefore Issue 2 are very worthy of support.



  • Everett

    I’m not in Ohio, so this is my first exposure to this bill. What I’d like to see examined is the relationship between Catholic Social Teaching and some of the labor provisions relating to this “right to strike” as that seems to be the stickiest issue in regards to Catholic teaching. In Ohio law does “right to strike” mean that when an employee is under contract, and goes on strike, that the contract is not violated, but merely suspended, and therefore no action can be taken against them? Is this the same thing that Catholic teaching means when they mention the right to strike?

  • Abaccio

    Tom, I have made many of these exact points in conversations with folks, though perhaps less eloquently. You are 100% correct! Governor Christie has worked toward similar ends with similarly successful results in New Jersey. It seems that the ignorant union supporters fail to recognize the fact that there’s no big corporation profiting from any proposed changes, but rather the people who pay taxes and benefit from these services!

  • JIM

    Really no need to discuss this with you,the people of ohio will decide tomorrow.Im sure the the govenor will listen to the people.Amazing how his people get big raises we make concessions. GOD bless and keep you always!

    • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

      Yes, the people of Ohio sure will decide this phase of the discussion tomorrow. And I hope all public employees who deserve them based on performance get big raises. But even if this goes down, the fact remains that the present state of things cannot remain as such—we. cannot. afford. it. All talk of who deserves what aside, the people deserve sound government more than any public employee deserves a bigger paycheck, fully-paid vacation paid upon retirement, etc. If this goes down, other means will be found to tighten the state’s belt: it has to be done. God bless.

      • Joe M

        Nobody notices in good economic times that public employee unions are abusing the common good via government relationships. What is amazing to see is that in bad economic times, many public employees want to continue their comparatively lavish situation at a further expense to everyone else in their society. If we really want to go down the “this is against Catholic Social Teaching!” path, there are a myriad of teachings I can refer to that contradict public employee union behaviors.

  • James

    “just limit the parameters within which the public sector negotiations can take place.” What right is it to be able to ban public sector employees from negotiating any part of their contract with their employer? Is it my right to tell my neighbor that they can’t negotiate their healthcare benefits, salary, retirement with their employer while I keep the same right for myself? That’s a horrid an unchristian position. Working families deserve to be able to feed their families and earn a decent retirement. God knows they worked for it.

    • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

      James, they absolutely can still negotiate their health care, benefits, salary, and retirement, but not perks and fringe benefits that the tax base can no longer afford. That’s what “limiting the parameters” means. They will continue to earn a decent retirement and feed their families. But now they will contribute about the same amount as their private sector counterparts into their own retirements and health care—not an unreasonable request, really, especially in today’s economy. Asking all people to pay a reasonable amount into their respective retirements and benefits is entirely Christian.

      • Asa

        If the “tax base” can no longer afford to pay it’s policemen, firemen, and teachers. Perhaps the “tax base” needs to learn how to do without policemen, firemen, and teachers, or accept a lower level of service in exchange for reduced costs. You don’t try to cheat hardworking Americans out of their fair wages by eliminating their right to collective bargaining and union negotiation. What you are asking for is a law that give the government the upper hand so that they can steal money. Shameful.

        • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

          Asa— Don’t be ridiculous. Asking commensurately paid public servants to pay a reasonable amount of their retirement and health care, and applying the same no-strike policy that Democrats support at the national level is hardly deciding that we can no longer pay them. The only thing shameful here is your horrid misrepresentation of the situation at hand. You get every single thing you say wrong. Seriously, everything.

          • Scott

            It’s quite disturbing to come to a website that purports to be catholic and see an article supporting a law that would make it harder for working families to support themselves and limits the rights of the people. I think ASA said it right. This law is nothing more than a blatant attempt for the public to steal money from the people that risk their lives protecting them or from the teachers who teach their children.

          • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

            And like Asa, you are 100% wrong in everything you think SB 5 is about. The only stealing going on is the forced payment of union dues from those who are only in the union because they have to be, but who hate the union. And then their money is taken from them and used by the union bosses to support causes they do not believe in. How is that fair? How is that not stealing?

          • Mike

            If your logic is that no one should be forced to join a union, then why should people be forced not to unionize? How is that fair?

            And yes, taking away the right to strike is forced non-unionization (and also against Catholic social teaching, for that matter).

          • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

            Mike— No, prohibiting strikes is not forced non-unionization, unless you contend that unions exist only to strike, or that strikes are the only way unions can make their point. And is it against Catholic social teaching to prohibit police officers from striking? Is public safety less important than the police officers union getting a few more percentage points raise in negotiations? Methinks not. So then that principle is not absolute.

          • Joe M

            Mike. Can you be specific about what Catholic social teaching clearly indicates that public employees should have unrestricted rights to strike? If I remember correctly, the context was employees of private companies. — Also, I disagree with your assertion that not striking is forcing people out of a union. You can still join a union and collectively bargain under SB5.

          • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

            Joe M— You raise a good point that I dropped in my response to Mike. I.e., the essential difference between public sector and private sector unions. I touch on it in this post, but the incestuous nature of the negotiations between public sector unions and the politicians/bureaucrats who are the managers makes them an entirely different animal.

          • Joe M

            It certainly works against the Common Good. Besides, the encyclicals don’t seem to support what Mike is saying: “One method used by unions in pursuing the just rights of their members is the strike or work stoppage, as a kind of ultimatum to the competent bodies, especially the employers. This method is recognized by Catholic social teaching as legitimate in the proper conditions and within just limits. In this connection workers should be assured the right to strike, without being subjected to personal penal sanctions for taking part in a strike. While admitting that it is a legitimate means, we must at the same time emphasize that a strike remains, in a sense, an extreme means. It must not be abused; it must not be abused especially for “political” purposes. Furthermore it must never be forgotten that, when essential community services are in question, they must in every case be ensured, if necessary by means of appropriate legislation. Abuse of the strike weapon can lead to the paralysis of the whole of socioeconomic life, and this is contrary to the requirements of the common good of society, which also corresponds to the properly understood nature of work itself.” — If teaching children is an essential community service, legislation against strikes there are justified in the encyclicals. Society should not be held hostage in order to further one groups bargaining power. The concept in the encyclicals is that a group may strike in response to employers trying to do business (ie. possibly affecting their competitiveness). Not strike against the entire community, possibly disrupting families, for their financial gain.

  • jim

    you should read your catechism of the cathloic church on unions and the right to strike!we are supposed to protect life from conception to natural death!if you think companies and government are going to be fair to its workers you truly are not on the right path

    • http://twitter.com/tomcrowe Tom Crowe

      jim— I daresay I’m not the one misguided on this topic. The right to strike is not sacrosanct, and certainly has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. Further, as I explain in the post, and in my previous post which I linked therein, public sector unions are essentially different from private sector unions in their negotiating power with politicians and bureaucrats, so the right to strike is modified by that peculiar mutual-backscratching relationship. By the way, I happen to know of a decent number of companies that are more than fair to their employees—it’s how they’ve managed to retain good employees (do you think employees would *want* to work for an employer who treated them poorly?). And there is little as near to immortality on earth as a government job, so I’m not sure what you mean by knocking government treatment of employees. This law merely makes it so that public employees contribute a sensible amount to their own retirement.



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