I took the time to review Senate Bill 5. It is as has been said, very comprehensive. Governor Kasich and its supporters talk about giving local communities the power to negotiate agreements and to deal with increasing costs of government, especially as it relates to personnel costs.. Nothing is further from the truth. Not only does this legislation tie the hands of unions, it ties the hands of management. Further it creates, in my opinion, unethical solutions to deadlocks and increases the amount of politics in the negotiation and contract approval process. Concurrently, it also appears to be the biggest negative impact upon home rule government in Ohio that I have seen in decades. In this proposed legislation, all manners of employee benefits are prescribed including: health care, vacation time, sick time, personal days and cash out of sick leave at retirement. Further, the legislation puts governing boards (i.e, city councils, township trustees) in an untenable and unethical position in resolving fact-finder reports.
Sections 124 and 4117 limit the amount of benefits that a community can offer. True, 4117 is the collective bargaining law. However, there are communities in Ohio that just cannot offer competitive wages and have utilized benefits to balance their ability to attract quality employees. SB 5 in actuality hamstrings and micromanages a communities ability to discuss levels of benefits. This process undermines home rule and councils’ discretion in rewarding employees at all levels, including the ability of a city manager to negotiate a contract with a city council.
Section 4117.114(D)(1) and (2) creates a process whereby not only do city councils establish the parameters of labor negotiations and directs a manager (or negotiator) to proceed by those directions, but also makes the final decision on negotiations based upon unresolved fact-finding issues. The council will be forced to hold a public hearing on the negotiations and choose the last best offer presented by either the council’s representative or the union representative. It is a little like asking the the fox to guard the henhouse.
Acceptance of a labor contract has always required the City Council to act on a labor contract, even if it was a fiat accompli via an arbitration process. A council could either declare an emergency and vote on the contract or use the three reading procedure. By having a public hearing, according to a staff member of Senator Jones, under the guise of being transparent, creates a potentially hostile environment in a triangle of the general public, the union and the council. This process essentially destroys the labor-management relationship. The idea here being that if the community does not like the negotiated union agreement, the city council will be voted out and a new council voted in.
In my opinion, again the concept of home rule is usurped and frankly puts a city council in an unethical position of arbitrating something in which it has a vested interest and potentially making a decision based on political interference, an antithesis of a republican form of government. The overall effect is to create a group of public servants that are now reduced to servants. Of equal concern from a selfish standpoint is the tenure of the manager and the dilution of professional activity.
If the Council is “held accountable” so will the manager by the newly elected council. Professional standards and behavior are now subject to political whims even more than they are now. Such behavior will drive councils to hire candidates that are of a lesser qualification that are anti-labor in their sentiments and actions.
Without delving into all of the other items that I find objectionable in this bill, SB 5 certainly reduces home rule in many ways and is something that I encourage every local government manager to read at length.