The Ohio House approved its version of union-busting Ohio Senate Bill 5 yesterday.
The vote was so wrought with protesters, Tom Niehaus, Ohio Senate president and Southwestern Ohio Republican, had to pause the vote when the audience shouted down individual Republicans who voted for the bill, and again when the audience broke into song.
The Ohio House approved the legislation 53–44. Five House Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing the bill. The Ohio Senate then quickly approved the new version of S.B. 5 by the same 17–16 vote it used to initially pass the bill. The law is now on Gov. John Kasich’s desk, and he has promised to sign the bill into law, via Facebook no less:
S.B. 5 weakens collective-bargaining rights for about 360,000 public-union workers by prohibiting public-worker strikes and banning safety forces from using binding arbitration as a way to settle contract disputes. It also eliminates automatic pay increases for longevity and replaces it with a merit pay system for all public workers, and layoffs no longer can be based solely on seniority.
Not only does S.B. 5 crush labor, as an added bonus, it would also jeopardize domestic partner benefits extended to LGBT public workers, including school and university employees. As the bill reads now, the language of section 3101.01 that defines marriage as between one man and one women mirrors existing statutes. But the vague subsequent clauses could rescind domestic partner benefits won by employees through collective bargaining, depending on how S.B. 5 is interpreted.
S.B. 5 creates a system for current collective bargaining agreements to be dissolved, and it prohibits future collective bargaining, particularly for health benefits. If S.B. 5 becomes law, collective bargaining will no longer be a tool for public employees to negotiate domestic partner benefits — a tool that has had some success at public universities in Ohio, including the University of Cincinnati.
Opponents of the legislation have vowed to collect the more-than 230,000 signatures needed to recall S.B. 5 on the November ballot. If the adequate number of signatures is collected within 90 days of the governor signing the bill, S.B. 5 would not take effect until Ohioans vote on it.
Proponents of S.B. 5 and legislation like it in other states have repeatedly said it is time for public employees partake in the shared sacrifice of the recession and take a hit like everyone else. For public employees the sweet life they will soon be over because the government is strapped for cash and just can’t pay them the exorbitant salaries and benefits they used to. Some lawmakers even shamed union members for being so greedy as to expect decent pay and benefits, saying workers should be grateful to even have a job in a state with an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent. (This video sums up these attitudes nicely.)
But these comments are not only ridiculously offensive and ironic (I haven’t seen any bills to cut lawmaker or government higher-ups pay or benefits. In fact, some even got raises.), they are easily debunked. American companies are producing and profiting more now than when the recession began, despite employing fewer workers, because Americans are doing more work for less pay. Two-thirds of American corporations pay no federal income taxes. And seeing as corporations are people in the eyes of the law, shouldn’t they share the sacrifice like the rest of us? Or at the very least, pay their taxes? Then the government would not be in such dire straits and wouldn’t be forced enact laws like S.B. 5.