Setting Record Straight on SB5

An enormous amount of misinformation regarding Senate Bill 5 in Ohio is being circulated, with President Barack Obama eagerly leaping into the fray. In an interview this week, Obama criticized the Ohio law and a similar measure in Wisconsin, saying they are a threat to public employees’ “rights.”

Let’s set the record straight on the “rights” claim: It isn’t true. Americans and, more specifically, Ohioans have a variety of rights guaranteed to them in federal and state constitutions and other fundamental documents of government.

One basic right is that of freedom of association. SB 5 does not infringe upon that. Ohio public employees are free to join any organization or labor union they choose. Their unions are free to lobby local officials and state legislators regarding pay, benefits and working conditions. Nowhere in either the state or federal constitution, however, is there any guarantee of collective bargaining for public employees.

Contrary to what some opponents of SB 5 want the public to believe, the law does not ban collective bargaining by government workers. It does not prevent unions from negotiating pay rates for their members.

SB 5 does prohibit collective bargaining for benefits such as pension programs, however. In the past, unions have managed to gain contracts that have plunged the state tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The new law also bans strikes by public employees. Again, neither the state nor the federal constitutions provide a “right” for public employees to go on strike, perhaps jeopardizing public safety or children’s educations.

And the law bans “step increases” for public school teachers. Instead, a merit-based system is to be implemented to decide which teachers receive raises and which do not.

Very few Ohioans who work in the private sector have the “right” to annual pay raises, simply because they remain on a company’s payroll.

As the drive to get SB 5 on the ballot so Ohio voters can decide whether to retain it intensifies, much more misinformation will be circulated. Voters deserve to know the truth, however – especially concerning “rights.”