Senate Bill 5 passes in Ohio House

Anna Staver

Ohio House Republicans passed Senate Bill 5, a bill aimed at severely cutting the collective bargaining rights of public employees, Wednesday.

“This bill is a bill that will give control back to the people who pay the bill,” said Republican Speaker William Batchelder on the house floor before debate began.

The 53 to 44 vote came after more than three hours of tense floor debate that was frequently interrupted by protestors. Batchelder asked the state highway patrol to clear the house gallery after repeatedly requesting for quiet. But jeers could still be heard from outside the chamber where hundreds of union activists gathered in protest.

Despite the bill’s passage and Gov. John Kasich’s promise to sign it into law, Tracy Laux, Kent State’s non-tenure track union president, said he is confident the bill will never be enacted.

“Given current polls, we will have no problems overturning this legislation in a referendum come November,” Laux said.

A referendum is when a particular piece of legislation is put to the voters of that state to decide whether it will become law. Public-worker unions, including Kent State’s American Association of University Professors chapter, will have 90 days from the time Kasich signs the bill into law to collect 230,000 signatures. If they do, then SB 5 will be put to the voters of Ohio this November.

Laux said he is pretty confident that collecting those signatures will not be a problem.

“Quite of the few of the poles that I’ve seen state that the majority of the people in Ohio, as well as the majority of the people in Wisconsin, are aghast at this attack at middle class people in this country,” Laux said.

SB 5 will now return to the senate for another vote because the house made a few changes to the bill’s language.

One change that would affect Kent State professors is an amendment removing the right for unions to negotiate “fair-share” clauses in their contracts.

Laux said Kent State’s non-tenure track and tenure-track professors’ contracts contain fair share clauses. These mandate that professors must pay union dues even if they aren’t union members because all professors benefit from pay raises and health benefits negotiated by AAUP. Also, the unions are legally required to represent all professors, regardless of union memberships, in university-related grievances.

But, Laux said, the Kent State’s fair-share clause is relatively new.

“AAUP-KSU existed for a long time without a fair-share clause,” Laux said. “We survived before without fair share so we could survive again.”

The amended house bill also clarifies that safety forces and nurses can bargain collectively for equipment, and traffic ticket quotas can no longer be part of merit reviews for police officers.

Kasich said in a press release that he is eager to sign the bill within a week. But Laux said that the fight would continue well beyond the signing.

“Our job is to keep people pissed off until November,” Laux said. “And not just this November, but the following November when a noticeable amount of legislators who voted for SB-5 come up for re-election.”

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].