On March 31, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law. The new law significantly reduces the collective bargaining rights of nearly half a million public employees throughout Ohio, including teachers, firefighters and police officers. Below are a few key points of interest.
- Public employees retain the right to collectively bargain over starting pay, hours, and other terms and conditions of their employment, but will be limited in their ability to bargain over health care, sick time and pension benefits, building assignments and staffing sizes.
- Public employees no longer are permitted to strike.
- Public employees are required to pay at least 15 percent of their health care benefits and 8 to 10 percent of their pension plan benefits.
- Police and firefighters, who previously did not have the right to strike, would see their right to binding arbitration replaced with last, best-offer arbitration to settle a negotiation impasse that ultimately would be decided by elected officials after full disclosure of all demands and a public hearing so taxpayers may have input.
- The law eliminates automatic pay increases for longevity and replaces it with a merit or performance pay system for public employees.
- The law prohibits the practice of selecting employees for layoffs based solely on seniority.
- The law does not apply retroactively to existing labor contracts, but rather is effective upon a contract’s extension, modification or renewal after the effective date of the law.
The new law faces likely opposition by Democrats and union leaders who plan to organize and collect the more than 230,000 signatures needed from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties within 90 days to place a referendum of the law on the ballot this November. If the Secretary of State determines that there are a sufficient number of valid signatures by the 90-day deadline, the law is placed on hold until the election and would only go into effect if the electorate votes in favor of it in November.