Our View: Eliminating collective bargaining could push professors to other universities

DKS Editors

Senate Bill 5 has been inciting debate all over Ohio this week.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Shannon Jones from Springboro, Ohio, eliminates collective bargaining for state workers.

According to a Cincinnati Enquirer article, the bill will “make layoffs based on merit instead of seniority, allow governments to replace striking employees, stop governments from paying the employee share of pension contributions, require workers to pay at least 20 percent of health insurance premiums and require merit-based pay raises for most public employees.”

State government now pays 85 percent of premiums for medical plans and 100 percent for dental and vision plan, while more than 850 local-governmental units in Ohio pick up more than 80 percent of their employees’ health-insurance premiums, at a cost of $627 million, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Those supporting the bill say the changes are needed to balance state and local budgets while others say it’s the government’s attempt to bust unions.

Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Berding said that the current situation isn’t working for cash-strapped cities.

“City leaders, managers — elected to represent the taxpayers — need the ability to pay what we can afford and not have it dictated by unions gaming the system and unelected third parties,” Berding told the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee during hours of testimony Thursday. “I must share with you my profound personal disappointment to realize that union leaders and their members prioritize pay benefits over averting layoffs.”

Former Gov. Ted Strickland has another opinion.

“This has little to do with balancing this year’s budget,” he said. “I think it’s a power grab. It’s an attempt to diminish the rights of working people. I think it’s an assault of the middle class of this state, and it’s so unfair and out of balance,” Strickland told the Associated Press.

Either way, eliminating collective bargaining will affect about 42,000 state workers and more than 19,500 others who are employed at public colleges such as Kent State.

Many fear that the passing of Bill 5 will drive qualified educators out of the state.

If top professors looking for universities to teach at are worried about job security in Ohio, what would stop them from looking at neighboring states where collective bargaining is still allowed? Ohio boasts a number of highly ranked public and private universities, but we doubt reputation alone would keep a professor here if his job were on the line.

Why would an engineering professor teach at Case Western when Purdue is just six hours away? Why would a fashion professor teach at Kent State when Parsons is eight hours away in New York City?

Our worry is that by eliminating collective bargaining, educators will flee to other states and jeopardize the quality of our education in Ohio.

This goes beyond saving money from the budget.