Faculty Senate shows disapproval of SB 5

Anna Staver

Faculty Senate passed, almost unanimously, a resolution strongly opposing Senate Bill 5, which would restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights and classify most university faculty as managers. It would all but eliminate faculty unions.

In a testimony before a State Senate subcommittee, the head of the lobbying group for Ohio’s public universities not only endorsed the bill but also suggested the senators look at a 1980 Supreme Court decision that ruled such restrictions were acceptable for private universities.

After his testimony, the senate added similar language to the bill.

Bruce Johnson, head of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, said in a phone interview that the presidents of Ohio’s 14 public universities supported his position.

Bruce Johnson

“They believe that our faculty is our most important asset on the campus, and they are in fact management of the university,” Johnson said. “It is inappropriate to sit down and negotiate collectively with management.”

At Faculty Senate yesterday, several senators questioned President Lester Lefton about Johnson’s testimony. Lefton said he had spoken to Johnson on the phone about the bill, but wouldn’t confirm that he had given his endorsement.

“I have taken the position, and the board of trustees has taken the position, that we will not comment on SB 5,” Lefton said.

Marketing chair Pamela Grimm argued Lefton and the presidents in the IUC need to vote formally on SB 5 so professors could see where each university president stands.

Tracy Laux, president of the non-tenure track unit of Kent State’s union, said Johnson and the IUC do not represent Laux’s opinion. He said he is concerned that the amended bill will kill more than collective bargaining.

The amendment states that professors at public universities who participate in a faculty senate and other advisory organizations are ineligible for union membership because they are managers.

“At least at Kent State our governance rights are tied to our contracts,” Laux said. “Without those protections, the administration could decide to do away with governance whenever they want.”

Laux argued that the different faculty organizations at Kent State only make recommendations; they don’t make decisions. He said managers should be defined as decision-makers, and therefore professors should not be considered managers.

The bill is now in a subcommittee of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Kara Robinson, president of Kent State’s AAUP, the faculty union, said the house subcommittee has the potential to remove the amendment about managers from the bill. If they do not, it will go to the full house for a vote where representatives can’t offer amendments.

Robinson said she thinks the bill in either form will pass once it clears the subcommittee, and “the governor has made it clear he will sign it.”

Kent State professors will be hurt either way, Robinson said.

“If this language weren’t here, it’s still a bad bill,” Robinson said. “This language makes it worse.”

Contact Anna Staver at [email protected].