YouTube video

Sub S.B. 5

(LSC 129 0241-5)

129th General Assembly

(As Pending in S. Insurance, Commerce, and Labor)


The Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law

State employees and employees of state institutions of higher education

·         Abolishes the collective bargaining rights of employees of the state, of any agency, authority, commission, or board of the state, and of any state institution of higher education.

·         Prohibits the state, agencies, authorities, commissions, and boards of the state, and a state institution of higher education from collectively bargaining with its employees.

·         Abolishes the Office of Collective Bargaining.

Police and fire department supervisors

·         Removes a limitation on the definition of “supervisor” with respect to members of police and fire departments, potentially making more people supervisors and ineligible to collectively bargain.

Contract employees and employees of regional councils of government

·         Excludes persons working pursuant to a contract between a public employer and private employer and over whom the National Labor Relations Board has declined jurisdiction from those persons eligible for collective bargaining.

·         Excludes employees of a regional council of government from those persons eligible for collective bargaining.

Rights of public employees

·         Removes continuation, modification, or deletion of an existing collective bargaining agreement from the subject of collective bargaining.

·         Removes a provision granting specific authority to public school employees to collectively bargain for health care benefits. 

·         Authorizes public employees to refuse any representation by an exclusive representative or an employee organization.

Open shops

·         Makes any agreement that purports to require that employees join any exclusive representation void and unenforceable.

Subjects for collective bargaining

·         Makes the following inappropriate subjects for collective bargaining:  (1) employer-paid contributions to any of the five public employee retirement systems and (2) health care benefits for which the employer is required to pay more than 80% of the cost.

·         Permits public employers to not bargain on any subject reserved to the management and direction of the governmental unit, even if the subject affects wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.

Collective bargaining agreement provisions and approval

·         Prohibits a collective bargaining agreement from prohibiting a public employer that is in a state of fiscal emergency from serving a written notice to terminate, modify, or negotiate the agreement.

·         Prohibits a public employer from agreeing to a provision in a collective bargaining agreement that requires the public employer, when a reduction in force is necessary, to use employee length of service as the only factor when making layoffs.

·         Prohibits a public employer from agreeing to a provision in a collective bargaining agreement that requires the employer to pay more than 80% of the cost paid for benefits.

Conflicting provisions of agreements

·         Makes laws pertaining to the provision of health care benefits to public employees prevail over conflicting collective bargaining agreements.

School districts, educational service centers, community schools, and STEM schools

·         Prohibits a public employer that is a school district, educational service center, community school, or STEM school from entering into a collective bargaining agreement that does specified things, such as establishing a maximum number of students who may be assigned to a classroom or teacher.

·         Requires collective bargaining agreements between such an education-related public employer and public employees to comply with all applicable state or local laws or ordinances regarding wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, unless the conflicting provision establishes benefits that are less than provided in the law or ordinance.

·         Requires the parties to consider, during negotiations, the financial status of the public employer at the time period surrounding the negotiations for purposes of determining the ability of the employer to pay for any agreed terms.

·         Prohibits the parties from basing the ability of the employer to pay for terms of the agreement on potential future increases in the employer’s income that would only be possible by the employer obtaining funding from an outside source, including the passage of a levy or a bond issue.

Dispute resolution procedures, strikes, and unfair labor practices

·         Revises collective bargaining dispute resolution procedures.

·         Requires the employer and the State Employment Relations Board to post in a conspicuous location on the web site maintained by the board and the employer the terms of the last collective bargaining agreements offered by the employer and the exclusive representative at specific times.

·         Revises the factors that a person or group administering an alternate dispute resolution procedure must take into account.

·         If either party rejects a fact finding panel’s recommendations, permits the public employer to implement, in whole or in part, any of those recommendations that have been approved by the appropriate legislative authority.

·         Removes the mandatory final offer settlement conciliation procedure for public employees who do not have the right to strike.

·         Requires a public employer to report certain information about compensation paid to public employees under a collective bargaining agreement. 

·         Specifies that expressions of views, opinions, and arguments are not unfair labor practices, and cannot be used as evidence of such, without a threat.

·         Repeals the provision requiring the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law to be liberally construed.

·         Allows public employers to set aside any provision in an existing collective bargaining agreement in the event of a fiscal emergency.

Public employee pay

·         Requires merit-based pay for most public employees, including teachers and nonteaching school employees and board and commission members, and makes other, related changes.

·         Generally eliminates statutory salary schedules and steps.

Public employee benefits

·         Abolishes the School Employees Health Care Board, the School Employees Health Care Fund, and the Public Schools Health Care Advisory Committee, and allows the board of education of any school district to govern employee health care benefits in the same way as the governing board of any public institution of higher education.

·         Limits public employer contributions toward health insurance premiums to 80%.

·         Requires boards of education to adopt policies to provide leave with pay for school employees and abolishes statutorily provided leave for those employees.

·         Abolishes continuing contracts for teachers, except for those continuing contracts in existence prior to the effective date of the bill.

·         Prohibits a public employer from paying employee contributions to certain retirement systems.

Reduction in the public sector work force

·         Removes consideration of seniority and of length of service, by itself, from decisions regarding a reduction in work force of certain public employees.

·         Makes changes to retention point provisions, including changes concerning the calculation of retention points and the layoff procedures when retention points for two employees are the same.

For Full Details, please visit:

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In Ohio on Wednesday, the Senate passed Bill 5. This bill eliminates the ability of public sector employees to negotiate health-care benefits, receive automatic pay raises based on seniority, and to strike without fine or terminated contract. The vote was very close, 17 to 16, with six Republicans actually voting against it. Now joining us from Urbana, Illinois, is Cary Nelson. He’s a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. He’s also president of the American Association of University Professors. Thanks for joining us, Cary.


JAY: So, first of all, what’s in this bill? I take it you object to this bill. What’s in it that you object to?

NELSON: A strike as an option is more valuable as a threat than it is as a reality. Strikes are difficult. They’re often divisive. But employees can use the possibility of a strike to bargain effectively. So just the decision to bar strikes, which of course is–in the Ohio law and also in Wisconsin law, that’s hovering at the point of being passed and enacted into law as well–that’s a real loss in the leverage that public employees have to win fair working conditions and fair benefits.

JAY: What do you make of the counterargument which says private sector workers face layoffs at a far higher rate than public sector, that layoffs in the public sector are relatively rare, so that’s the tradeoff: you get a more secure job and you lose the right to strike? That seems to be the main argument in favor of this kind of legislation.

NELSON: Well, I think that, you know, the value of collective bargaining and being able to negotiate is not just job security and wages. The deeper value in collective bargaining is the ability to build ways of structuring cooperation into the workplace relationship.

JAY: Does the Ohio bill take away anything to do with the grievance procedure? I thought this had to do mostly with the ability to negotiate certain economic issues.

NELSON: Well, of course, the Ohio bill has, from my perspective as president of the AAUP, one absolutely catastrophic provision, which is that faculty members of public colleges and universities are barred from collective bargaining completely. Unlike Wisconsin’s law that’s, you know, being debated, the Ohio law bars collective bargaining for faculty completely. One minute before the Ohio legislature was to end its workday, a coalition of Republicans submitted a 99-page revision of the law, one minute before the Senate closed for that day. Now, I would say that in a democracy, folks would usually have more than a minute to debate a potential law, and certainly they would have time to read a 99-page version of it. So this was really slipped in at the last moment. And it’s at that point that they added the provision that faculty members could not bargain at all. And that’s–I think for those unions that’s really devastating. So there won’t be faculty unions in Ohio if this survives. There won’t be any grievance procedures. There won’t be anything. It’s really an effort to completely end faculty bargaining. And it’s an effort to kind of divide the workforce, in other words, to separate faculty from other people who have public employment in Ohio.

JAY: So does this–in terms of outlawing collective bargaining completely for faculty members, is this true throughout the act for the whole public sector? I mean, essentially what you’re describing is the end of unions in the public sector.

NELSON: I think there’s still–there will be bargaining in K-12. That is, teachers can bargain in Ohio. They’re still permitted. So there’s a distinction between K-12 teachers and college and university faculty. And if it passes and if it survives–my own prediction is that it will not survive. I mean, I think it’s going to both do damage to unions and it’s going to galvanize people in resistance. Already there’s a law in Ohio: you have 90 days from the point that legislation is actually due to take effect–and I don’t know what date that would be for this law; it hasn’t been passed or signed yet. But you have 90 days to gather about 250,000 signatures to put on the ballot for November 2011 an initiative to repeal the law. And all of the unions in Ohio are going to work together to get that initiative on the ballot and convince voters to repeal the law.

JAY: So just to be clear on something, so the way this bill acts towards faculty at the university level is different than at the K-12 level. And what about policemen, firemen, and such? So I didn’t quite understand. The bill has different provisions about collective bargaining for different types of public-sector workers, then.

NELSON: Well, police and firemen have some limitations. They can’t strike. They’re–in Ohio they’re also prohibited, like everyone else, from a collective bargaining agreement that has step increases in it. And step increases are really, for many kinds of work–one of the most basic ways that people keep pace with inflation is to guarantee, after, you know, a certain number [of] years, they move up the ladder on a pay scale. The Ohio law also has a provision which I also think is bad, which is that you can’t bargain over workload. One final piece of the Ohio legislation which is really pretty terrifying for everybody–K-12 teachers, firemen, policemen, janitors, whatever–is that the law applies not just to the state as a whole, but also to municipalities and counties; that is, whatever state entities hire in Ohio also have the right to void a collective bargaining agreement, any element of a collective bargaining agreement, if they declare a fiscal crisis. So they have the unilateral authority with no arbitration, no right of appeal, to say, God, we’re really short of money; you know, we just can’t afford to pay you; we’ve got a crisis. And so they can void elements of the law of–elements of collective bargaining agreements that have actually been negotiated.

JAY: So what then is your answer to the governor and the Republicans who voted for this legislation? They say there is a fiscal crisis throughout the state and the only way to deal with it is to deal with the amounts paid into the public sector, that without controlling these costs, you can’t solve the problem. What’s your answer to that?

NELSON: First I want to say that both in Wisconsin and in Ohio, although the laws are different, the fundamental goal is the same. It’s really to end collective bargaining as an effective employee strategy in both of those states.

JAY: They would admit, both governors would agree with you, that’s what they’re doing. I don’t think they’re saying they’re not.

NELSON: Right. I mean, you can quibble over the details, but in the end that’s the final goal. I think that, you know, public employees throughout the country have been willing to negotiate over issues like health care and retirement contributions. And generally not just public employees but private sector employees that have been unionized have negotiated serious cuts in those benefits. And I think in Wisconsin the unions have already agreed to exactly the same level of cuts that Wisconsin’s Governor Walker has proposed. So, you know, he’s gotten–Walker has gotten everything he’s wanted in terms of cuts of those basic costs, health care and retirement. And the same thing, what happened in Ohio. You know, the employees are willing to give ground on that. In some states, I think, in some ways, too much ground has been given, because I think public employee pensions, which are very fair and very reasonable, are being–defined benefit plans are increasingly being replaced by defined contribution plans, which you really can’t count on. So, you know, your money goes up and down with the stock market, and it’s not as secure and as decent a kind of agreement. But unions are making those kinds of concessions. And many unions, of course, have made salary concessions as well.

JAY: So you’re really focused now on November. It’s pretty–it looks like the House will pass it in Ohio. So the fight begins today, I guess, for the November referendum.

NELSON: Right. But everything we’re doing, everything being done in the state capitals also helps that referendum process.

JAY: Great. Thanks very much for joining us, Cary.

NELSON: Thanks for having me on.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Cary Nelson is a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He is also President of the American Association of University Professors. Cary is the author and editor of over 28 books, including his latest work, No University is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom.