From Cleveland Plain Dealer…
Gov.-elect John Kasich wants to overhaul collective bargaining law
Monday, December 13, 2010
Reginald Fields, The Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Public employees who go on strike over labor disputes should automatically lose their jobs, says Gov.-elect John Kasich.
"If they want to strike they should be fired," Kasich said last week. "I really don't favor the right to strike by any public employee. They've got good jobs, they've got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?"
Kasich has made it clear that dismantling Ohio's collective bargaining law will be a top priority of his administration.
In particular, Kasich is going after binding arbitration rules often used to settle police and fire department salary and benefits disputes that he says are costly and bankrupting cities. That in turn drives up the state's share of funding for local government budgets.
"You are forcing increased taxes on taxpayers with them having no say," Kasich said.
The Middletown City Council recently passed a resolution asking the Ohio General Assembly to revise the state's collective bargaining law.
City Councilman Josh Laubach, who authored the resolution, said the city had to dip into reserves to pay police and fire costs this year and is expecting a $2.5 million increase in safety personnel in 2011 despite adding no new positions, according to the Middletown Journal.
But state labor groups have said the incoming governor is wrong, and they are ready to fight him on any attempts to repeal or alter the nearly three-decade-old collective bargaining law.
Terry Gallagher, executive director of the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, a group representing about 7,500 policemen, including patrolmen in Parma, Berea, Fairview Park and Westlake, called Kasich's comments "foolish."
"Arbitration is a fair way of doing things -- you have a neutral person come in and listen to both sides and make a decision," Gallagher said. "Kasich doesn't want us to strike and he doesn't want us to collectively bargain, so what is law enforcement left with? Collective begging is what it would amount to."
The 1983 collective bargaining law, which gives public employees a right to unionize, was implemented by a Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Richard F. Celeste.
The law, and a 1989 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that addresses it, requires cities to automatically enter into binding arbitration when in a dispute with its safety forces and abide by whatever decision that mediator hands down.
Labor groups say the law, in addition to winning better pay and benefits for its members, has also created a better working environment for management, too, with fewer work stoppages and disagreements.
The same rules can also apply for city school teachers, though they, unlike police and fire officials, can go on strike. Kasich said the current collective bargaining rules can bankrupt cities that have to turn to the state to help bail them out.
"You should have a change in the law," he said. "There are ways to say that you are not going to strike, and we are going to continue negotiations without a binding arbitrator."
Kasich will have an all-Republican legislature to work with on this issue. But it won't be easy. Police and fire groups that benefit from collective bargaining are also highly engaged in elections, and their support is sought by politicians -- Democrats and Republicans alike.
Kasich suggested that if lawmakers could not agree on how to rewrite the law, the issue should be decided by voters.
"Let the people vote, OK, there's another alternative," Kasich said. "We'll come up with a series of changes. but binding arbitration is not acceptable."
The incoming governor also said that he wants to eliminate prevailing wage rules, which require union-scale wages on public construction projects.