Mahoning County GOP Chairman, Mark Monroe, of Glenwoods Ct., spoke at Candidate’s Night held by the Boardman Civic Association on the merits of Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, urging those present to VOTE YES ON ISSUE 2.
Issue 2 will be on the Nov. 8 ballot and the law is designed to make public employee unions (like the Boardman Fire Department’s union) come into parity with private industry. The BFD’s union most recently has been the subject of widespread allegations of misuse of overtime amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Boardman Fiscal Officer
William Leicht. Following is Mr. Munroe’s remarks on SB-5 and Issue 2, as it was presented to the members of the Civic Association.
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A YES VOTE will allow Ohio Senate Bill 5 to become law. A NO vote will repeal SB 5.
To listen to the opponents of Issue 2, and to watch their false and misleading TV ads, you would be left with the impression that patients, fireman and cops will be dead on the streets if Issue 2 passes. For example, an analysis by Politifact.com found We Are Ohio’s ad regarding staffing levels for nurses to be “mostly false,” noting the reforms of Issue 2 affects “only a tiny fraction of Ohio nurses who are public employees” and “a listener knowing those critical facts would have a different impression of the claim.”
The Columbus Dispatch (that has called for a YES VOTE on Issue 2) reported that even the nurse featured in the ad already works for a hospital facility that uses the staffing reforms in Issue 2, and “the group runs into a problem in that there’s nothing in Senate Bill 5 that mandates a reduction in staffing levels.”
Nothing in Issue 2 prohibits safety unions from discussing staffing needs with safety administrators. Issue 2 simply allows staffing decisions to be made by fire chiefs and police commanders responsible for managing their departments while respecting the realities of community needs and budgets.
SB 5 is the first major reform of Ohio’s 27-year-old collective bargaining law for government employees. Over time, the unions representing those employees have successfully demanded a more expensive array of fringe benefits, sometimes at little or even no employee cost, benefits that far outpace the private sector, the very place where the money comes from.
Public sector employees generally enjoy higher wages, better benefits, working conditions and job security, and contribute less for those benefits than workers in the private sector who are footing the bill.
Public union wages outpaced Ohio’s median household income by a wide margin in the past decade. The benefit packages available to public employees far exceed those offered by the private sector. Government workers have better benefit packages than employees in the private sector, especially in the area of health insurance, pensions and paid leave.
Many bargaining agreements also allow unions to influence basic management decisions - such as staff structure, work assignments and cost-controls. As a result, public employers (that is, your elected representatives) often lack the flexibility to adapt when tax revenues decline, leaving many of them with no other option than to lay off public employees.
A recent Columbus Dispatch editorial puts the problem into perspective:
“The problem lies in the nature of public-sector collective bargaining. In private-sector labor negotiations, the two sides have adversarial interests that balance each other: Unions want the highest wages and best benefits possible, and management wants the highest profit. Unions need the company to profit and thrive; the company needs a competent, loyal and motivated work force. Each needs to accommodate the other.
In public-sector negotiations, unions want the highest wages and benefits possible. Management wants to be re-elected. Government doesn’t have to make a profit, and it faces no danger of its customers turning to a competitor. The ability of unions to pool members’ donations to make political contributions, as well as to organize members as a campaign force, gives them influence over their bosses that no private-sector union ever dreamed of.”
Here are some of the fair and reasonable reforms contained in Senate Bill 5:
• Public employees will be asked to pay a modest share of their benefits, including at least 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance plan, when most private sector workers pay an average of 31 percent.
• In Ohio, there are many public employees who pay nothing toward their own retirement. Here in Mahoning County, according to a recent Vindicator study, 71%, or over 1200 county employees, have their retirement contributions paid in part or in full by the taxpayer. In other words, the taxpayer is picking up both the employee and the employer contribution. SB 5 says that a public employee (not the taxpayer) must pay their share of the required employee pension contribution.
• Public employees can continue to collectively bargain on issues related to the wages, hours, terms and conditions of their employment. They would not be permitted to negotiate on issues traditionally considered to be management decisions
• Public employees will not be allowed to strike against the government, a policy that has applied to federal workers for decades.
• Public employees will no longer receive automatic pay increases based only on length of service. Raises or lay-offs can be based on length of service and other factors as well, such as employee evaluations or job performance.
• Public employees cannot accrue more than 6 weeks of paid vacation, 12 paid holidays and 3 paid personal days. Local government and higher education employees will receive two weeks of annual sick leave, rather than the current three weeks.
• Public employers can reopen collective bargaining agreements if the Auditor of State declares a local government to be in fiscal emergency.
• To resolve contract disputes, public employers and employees would participate in a fact-finding process that requires full disclosure of all demands, allows taxpayers to have input through a public hearing, and holds elected officials accountable for choosing a final offer, rather than an unelected and unaccountable arbitrator. The power to enter into a final contract should lie with your elected officials or their representatives.
• Government employees who are not union members cannot be required to pay a portion of their salaries to a union, and government union contracts cannot require a public employer to collect payroll funds for political use without employee authorization.
There are plenty of false rumors being spread by the opponents of SB. Here are just a few:
SB 5 is an attack on the middle class. FALSE. The new law applies to a only 6.5% of the state’s 5.5 million workers. It asks public employees to pay a modest share of their taxpayer-funded health and retirement benefits.
SB5 will take away public employee pensions. FALSE.
SB5 will cut teacher salaries in half. FALSE. SB 5 does not establish salary levels. Public employees and their unions can still collectively bargain for wages and working conditions.
SB 5 prevents public employees from making political contributions through their unions. FALSE. Workers desiring to have money withdrawn for political contributions may do so. But in order to prevent public employees from being forced to donate to causes they may not believe it, SB 5 requires unions to submit a signed authorization from an employee before political donations can be withheld.
SB 5 prevents safety forces from bargaining on safety equipment. FALSE. The legislature took extra steps to clarify that safety equipment was included under terms and conditions of employment.
SB5 is not an attack on the middle class, or our public employees. Our public employees, from our clerks at the board of elections, to our teachers, firefighters and law enforcement, play an important role in our society, and deserve our appreciation and respect.
Senate Bill 5 will help keep our hard-working teachers, fire fighters, police officers and other public servants on the job. It will protect middle class taxpayers. It will give schools and governments the flexibility to manage our tax dollars. SB5 5 will save taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and will help our communities balance budgets and fund essential services. Senate Bill 5 will restore fairness between public and private sector jobs, increase the transparency of government labor negotiations, and will help reward and retain the best teachers and employees.