We strongly urge our readers to vote no on Issue 2 in the November general election. This up-or-down vote on the union-busting Senate Bill 5 will go a long way toward determining whether Ohio's a state that truly cares about a large segment of its middle-class workers and families, or one that sacrifices them to red-state, anti-union ideology.
Issue 2/S.B. 5 goes much further than its supporters' public argument – that it simply provides long-needed, good-government, cost-saving reforms to labor-government relations in Ohio. Much more than that, it's a Trojan horse that will break the back of public-employee unions in Ohio, and in so doing, further cripple the Democratic Party's ability to compete with Republicans.
If that's fine with you, it's certainly not fine with a large portion of Ohio's population, the moderates, liberals and independents who already feel justifiably disenfranchised by the hyper-partisan redistricting and primary process in the state.
A yes vote on Issue 2 will allow S.B. 5 to go into effect, negatively impacting 180,000 schoolteachers, 123,000 school district workers, 30,000 police officers and firefighters, 57,000 state workers and more than 300,000 general government employees.
These figures come from a well-researched report in Sunday's Dayton Daily News, which also noted that S.B. 5 "has the potential to impact 11 million Ohioans who pay taxes to operate 3,700 different government jurisdictions across the state."
A no vote on Issue 2, however, will keep our state from turning these hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers into scapegoats for our state's persistently sluggish economy, or being forced to pay the price for the reckless tax cuts that legislative Republicans pushed through five years ago.
In a nutshell, as explained in the Daily News' reporting on this complicated issue, "Senate Bill 5 would outlaw strikes by public employees, require government workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums and all their share of the pension contribution, replace raises based on seniority with a merit pay system, and allow management to impose its last offer as a three-year contract if the two sides reach impasse."
S.B. 5 would limit collective bargaining with public employees to wages, hours and terms of employment as well as placing a limit on vacation and sick time.
Perhaps the most insidious provision of S.B. 5 also happens to be the thing that betrays the virulently anti-labor and political motives of supporters. The bill would prohibit government worker donations from going directly to union political action committees, without the worker's approval, and would ban imposition of "fair-share" fees on non-union members.
The latter change, especially, would make it difficult for public employee unions to survive as effective institutions in Ohio, since why would your average employee pay for union benefits when he or she could benefit from the union contract without paying dues? (Smarter employees would realize that those benefits wouldn't last long without an effective union to protect them.)
These provisions put the lie to the Republican/Kasich argument that all they care about is reducing costs for local and state governments.
One can be alarmed about this legislation, even while agreeing that in some respects, public-sector unions have benefited from too many sweetheart deals at the expense of taxpayers. Most Ohioans are legitimately concerned about provisions in public-employee contracts that, for instance, allow an employee to accumulate a year's worth of sick and vacation time over time, and then receive a hefty cash windfall upon retirement.
And merit pay does make sense for public workers, though when it comes to schoolteachers, a shift in this direction is already happening, irrespective of S.B. 5.
Requiring public employees to pick up a minimum percentage of their health insurance costs, as well as a full share of their pension contribution, also doesn't seem unreasonable, though according to stats in the Dayton Daily News story, some 93.4 percent of public workers already pay their full pension contribution.
The point is that Gov. John Kasich and his legislative Republicans could have addressed those issues without striking directly at the heart of public-sector employees' ability to function as unions. Did they really need to eliminate the ability to strike, turn binding arbitration into a charade weighted heavily in the government's favor, and in general, destroy the unions' ability to leverage concessions from management?
Instead, S.B. 5 supporters' fundamental hostility to unions – especially those representing government workers – betrayed itself in any number of provisions whose main effect – and we would presume goal – is to cripple the public-sector unions, and indirectly hurt the Democratic politicians who benefit from their largesse.
This is why S.B. 5 involves much more than the benefits and wages of your neighbor who works on the police department, teaches at the local school, or has a job with the city street department.
S.B. 5, if allowed to go into effect with state Issue 2, will have the indirect consequence of sucker-punching not just Ohio Democrats, but common-sense independents and all of the moderates who have been driven out of the Rush Limbaugh/Sarah Palin /Tea Party Republican Party over the past five years.
If you support mainstream and/or moderate positions on public and higher education, health care, environmental regulation, the economy, social issues, and any number of other areas, then you can't support a ballot issue that will enhance the power of an Ohio Republican Party that's increasingly controlled by its extremist fringe, and that currently is on the verge of further consolidating its power through the redistricting process.
If you think about politics in broad terms, with every policy debate a battle in a larger war, then you should think of Issue 2/S.B. 5 as Gettysburg. This is a battle that we can't afford to lose.
Vote a resounding no on state Issue 2.