On Tuesday, Ohioans will vote on Issue 2, a referendum on Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) anti-workers’ rights law Senate Bill 5 (SB5). The bill strips teachers, police, and firefighters of their rights to collective bargain for better wages and working conditions. The bill is deeply unpopular.
But while most Republicans at least acknowledge that the law disadvantages public employees, one Republican thinks the opposite. This summer, Ohio Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel said he supported Senate Bill 5 because the law, in his mind, actually “respect[s] police, and firefighters, and teachers” by giving “fiscal conservatives” the tools to ignore collective bargaining rights, which somehow “insur[es]that there is a state and there are local governments” down the road:
MANDEL: Well I’ve been supportive of Senate Bill 5…In my mind, it’s not about going after police, and firefighters and teachers. It’s about respecting police, and firefighters, and teachers and insuring that there is a state and there are local governments long into the future so that we have communities here in the state. The current level of spending in our state and our country? Simply unacceptable. And I think we need to put the tools in the tool belts of local government leaders and also people who are fiscal conservatives to bring this state into a sense of fiscal health. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve been supportive.
In what must come as a surprise to Mandel, Ohio’s teachers, police, firefighters, and even veterans feel slighted — not respected — by this bill. SB5 strips unions of the right to negotiate wages, eliminates pay increases, and completely bans the right to strike. As public officials and unions both note, teachers and safety forces have already made substantial sacrifices — including zero pay raises and paying more for health insurance — to accommodate the tough economy.
As the Marion, Ohio Chief of Police Thomas Bell noted in an op-ed today, his police officers “already pay more than 20 percent of their health care” and traded the city pension “pick-ups” for actual pay raises. Noting that the cuts don’t actually apply to the public officials who created the law, Bell said safety forces “cannot continue to do more with less without tragic results”:
The cuts that are mandated by Issue 2 do not apply to those in Columbus who created this law. How they can exempt themselves from such a law is not only ridiculous, it is unfair and “business as usual” for those politicians.
It is not the fault of police officers, school teachers or firefighters that our state and local economies are in such a mess. The employees at our department have done their part, giving up more than $480,000 this year alone. That comes in the form of give-backs, furlough days, higher health care contributions and concessions. Our police department is supposed to have 69 officers, and we have only 57. We cannot continue to do more with less without tragic results.
Even Republicans don’t buy that this law in anyway respects teachers, police, and firefighters nor that it helps state and local governments. As retired Republican Ohio Supreme Court Judge Andy Douglas pointed out, Senate Bill 5 actually forces governments to face the prospect of safety forces work stoppages, something that spurred Ohio to develop the 1993 collective bargaining law in the first place. And as the Republican Mayor of Lancaster Ohio David Smith pointed out, the law actually doesn’t “save the day for anybody.” It’s the Republicans budget cuts, not the bargaining units, that actually forced him to layoff 13 firefighters and close a fire station, he said.