April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015
Ohioans sent an unambiguous message with the 2011 defeat of Senate Bill 5: Hands off our freedom to bargain! Yet, some lawmakers are attempting to resurrect long-dead collective bargaining attacks through new provisions added to the budget bill.
Two zombie proposals were slipped into the 3,000+ pages of the budget proposal in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday. Back from the dead is a proposal to restrict state agencies from requiring project labor agreements (PLAs). These agreements ensure that construction projects connected to state agencies use a skilled, local, and diverse workforce. PLAs are also useful on large construction projects where union and non-union contractors work the same site, by making sure the workers are treated the same way. The state budget is being used to pass this provision when similar stand-alone legislation has consistently failed in the General Assembly.
Emerging directly from the SB5 grave was a provision that would effectively end faculty unions at public institutions of higher ed. Mirroring language in SB5, the budget provision would make almost all faculty members into “management level” employees, effectively ending their right to bargain. Fortunately, the House Finance Committee dropped this provision this afternoon.
Ohio colleges and universities are pricey, but stripping faculty’s right to bargain could make it worse. Our institutions are already labor lean. Between 2002 and 2013, Ohio institutions only spent an average of 23.9 percent of their operating budgets on instructional compensation, according to a report released earlier this year by the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, an association representing over 4,500 professors in Ohio. The report also found that average spending had declined by about 4 percent over that time.
Further, knee-capping faculty bargaining rights would ultimately harm students. We want the best and brightest to teach our kids and develop our future workforce. Making it more difficult for faculty to bargain with their employers would move us in the wrong direction.
A real solution to the high tuition costs at Ohio’s schools is to restore public support to the system. Chancellor John Carey rightly noted in his budget letter that boosting state funding to instruction “is a priority to help keep the cost of college affordable; any reduction in state support has historically led to a corresponding increase by the schools in tuition and fees.” Ohio should tackle the problem of pricey higher ed. with solutions that support the long-term success of our students and institutions. Let’s invest state support in instruction and need-based financial aid, instead of reviving policies voters have already rejected.
Ohio has real challenges. The state has not yet recovered from the 2007 recession, we’ve experienced decades of declining real wages, and poverty is exceedingly high. Rehashing anti-labor policies that limit worker rights to negotiate a fair wage for fair work will only exacerbate these problems. These problems deserve real solutions, not zombie politics.
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