KSU students, faculty react to SB 5’s passage

Anna Staver

Gov. John Kasich signed the controversial bill to curtail collective bargaining for public employees in Ohio into law Thursday evening.

Reaction by professors and students to the passage of Senate Bill 5 has been mostly negative.

“It is a grotesque attack on the middle class that has built the country and the state,” physics professor Jon Secaur said. “The bill has nothing to do with economic issues but is all about breaking unions and tightening the stranglehold that selfish conservatives have on state and national government.”

Scott Demko, senior justice studies major, said SB 5’s passage upset him because several of his friends plan to go into law enforcement.

“It jeopardizes their pensions and benefits because they can no longer bargain for either of them,” Demko said. “Everybody I work with who is a justice studies major is pissed off. I voted for Kasich, and now I regret it.”

SB 5 passed in Ohio’s House of Representatives Wednesday after tense debate on the floor. The house amended the Ohio Senate’s version of the bill so it was sent back to the senate for a second vote.

The bill passed the second vote in the Senate Wednesday night. Both votes broke on mostly party lines with Republicans supporting the legislation.

SB 5 will restrict collective bargaining for most public employees to wages only and makes it illegal for unions to negotiate fair-share clauses into their contracts.

Kent State professors have a fair-share clause in their contracts. This means those who have not joined the union are required to pay a representation fee because the union is legally obligated to represent non-members. Those fees can no longer be collected, but the union will still be legally obligated to represent all professors in disputes with the university.

SB 5 also directly impacts university professors in another way by reclassifying those who participate in Faculty Senate and other advisory organizations as management. This means if they are union members, they will have to choose between remaining in the union and staying on their department’s advisory council, for example.

Kenneth Bindas, chair of the history department, said in a phone interview that he sees a difference between his current job as chair and his previous one as professor.

“I don’t quite understand how all professors will suddenly becomes managers,” Bindas said. “I’m confused as to how that will be implanted.”

When Bindas was a professor, he served as a union representative for Kent State’s American Association of University Professors chapter.

“My reaction to it is that is a rollback on rights of workers that have been fought long for, and represents a regression on how we view work and educational workers particularly,” Bindas said.

President Lester Lefton said in an e-mail statement that he is still committed to working in partnership with the professors at Kent State.

“Through shared governance, faculty members and the Faculty Senate play a central role in the life of the university,” Lefton said. “It is certainly my intent for that relationship to continue, with or without collective bargaining.”

Now SB 5 is likely headed for a referendum vote this November if the unions and their supporters can collect 230,000 signatures in the next 90 days.

Tracy Laux, Kent State’s non-tenure track union representative, said getting SB 5 on the ballot would not be a problem because all public unions expected SB 5 to pass. He said have many of them, like the firefighters’ union, have been preparing for a referendum fight for weeks.

“I do know that other public unions that have greater resources and greater numbers than AAUP-KSU have mapped out quite a few things.” Laux said. “I know they have a plan.”

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].