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The not-so-worker-friendly Ohio budget

October 02, 2015

The not-so-worker-friendly Ohio budget

October 02, 2015

Voters have shown overwhelmingly that they believe workers have a right to organize. Unfortunately, instead of using the state budget to help working families get ahead, lawmakers used the bill to pass policies that restrict Ohioans’ rights on the job.

Here are three provisions that put workers further behind:

  1. Bars independent healthcare and childcare workers from organizing. Governor Strickland extended the right to collectively bargain to independent healthcare and childcare workers. Governor Kasich rescinded those orders. The state legislature used the budget process to legislatively bar those workers from engaging in collective bargaining. Not only will this hurt the labor rights of workers who protect the elderly, the disabled, and children, but it could also affect the quality of care provided to the state’s most vulnerable groups.
Kasich has pointed to the increase in options for health insurance available to these workers under the Affordable Care Act as justification for repealing Strickland’s executive orders. Although it is true that these workers have more options for health insurance, they no longer have a way to stand united when negotiating for labor rights.
  1. Privatization to eliminate bargaining rights. In addition, there are two provisions allowing the privatization of vital sectors of public employment. The first provision permits counties to privatize their adult protective services, a set of programs that provide care for disabled adults and seniors in Ohio. This provision strips employees who provide these services of their protections as public employees, and will likely lead to lower quality jobs and benefits. It will hurt those working as employees and will also make these jobs less attractive, meaning that the most qualified individuals for these jobs may look elsewhere for employment. This is likely to lead to lower-quality care for some of Ohio’s most vulnerable people.
The second provision makes it possible for local governments to sell government-owned buildings to private entities and then lease those buildings back for government use. This will make custodians, maintenance workers, and others who work in these buildings employees of private entities, not of the government, and may strip them of their ability to collectively bargain. The transition from public to private ownership may also result in lost jobs, decreased benefits and wages for the facilities’ workforce.
  1. Chipping away at Project Labor Agreements. Lawmakers also approved a provision that would limit the ability of unions to negotiate 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.
With this new provision, a public hearing must take place to discuss whether a PLA is needed on any given construction project. Originally, the bill would have completely eliminated the use of PLAs on public contracts. When workers are unable to negotiate fair and equal treatment at work, problems will likely arise with employers. These problems can include discrimination, poor working conditions and abuse of workers’ rights. Although this provision was changed to be less extreme, the fact that it was being considered shows some lawmakers seek to erode workers’ rights.

Ohio is better off than some states with regard to workers’ rights. Gov. Kasich has said he opposes so-called Right to Work laws, and Ohio voters in 2011 repealed Senate Bill 5, which curbed public-sector bargaining rights.

And several attempts to enact more far-reaching prohibitions in the recent budget failed. Those include provisions that would have effectively banned faculty at public universities from organizing, and a prohibition on local governments using residency requirements in public contracts. Both of these provisions were eliminated from the final budget bill, but the ban on local hiring policies is alive in other pending legislation.

The push to restrict workers’ rights ignores the clear desires of Ohio voters. The budget objective should be long-term prosperity and expanding opportunity, not restricting collective bargaining.

-- Jackson Garrity

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Jackson is a former Policy Matters intern. 



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