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.