Monday, March 21, 2011

Some additional thoughts about SB 5

Joe Guillen, a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides concise and objective answers in to rumors that have been floating about on the collective bargaining bill SB 5.

I have been a frequent commenter in the Facebook page called "Support Ohio Senate Bill 5," but which in fact has become a discussion forum both for supporters and opponents. I consider my role in that page to be one of educating the supporters about the realities of being a state employee (which I am), and to exhort those who oppose SB 5 to accept the fact that employees will have to contribute to the solution.

Those who have observed the actions of people like Andy Stern and Richard Trumka should disabuse themselves of the notion that unions are about protecting their members. They do that to some extent, but their principal purpose is to acquire and wield power. This is evident from the fact that payment of union dues is compulsory for employees of corporations and governments whose employees are part of their bargaining units. No one other than management can completely escape paying the dues, though a reduction to a "fair share fee" is available for those who follow a convoluted process to file an objection letter, as I do every year. The absence of a right to work is really a violation of the Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 19, because it is a seizure (through the "fair share fee") of the private property of objectors for purposes unconnected to governmental protection of the public welfare.

American organized labor historically has downplayed its association with the international socialist movement; but anyone who reads any political communication by a union knows that they support a large paternalistic government that provides entitlements to everyone, paid for through confiscatory taxes on the "rich". In other words, they make productivity difficult by making it unrewarding. I am sure many union leaders would be happy to offer exceptions to this assertion -- as I am aware that AFSCME and SEIU have on several occasions cooperated with the State of Ohio on such efforts as the governmental flavor of Total Quality Management (known as "Quality Services through Partnership," or QStP) and on a fairer reclassification of positions in information technology; but the overall thrust of their politics has always favored more government and more entitlements.

Attitudes supporting the entitlement mentality were responsible for the failure of the steel and most of the automotive industry in the United States, as pensions and health benefits both for the currently employed and retirees drove their employers to (or close to) bankruptcy. Now the field of conflict is in state and local government. Forced to balance the budget every year, and having run out of accounting tricks to balance the budget, the time has come to make some hard decisions.

SB 5 and the pension reform bill HB 69 will not impoverish public employees, and it really is not intended to punish teachers. It will not reduce our pensions, but it will make some local employees pay the full employee share, as state employees do now. Even with the takeaways, most public employees will have decent salaries, and all will have vacation and other benefits that will continue to be the envy of the private sector. One benefit to employees who care about their professionalism is that a mechanism will put into place to reward those who do outstanding work -- something that has always been missing from public employment.

All of us, regardless of our position on SB 5, should tone down our rhetoric and consider both the public welfare and that which public employees have legitimately earned through their work. Only through reason can the Ohio House write a law that approaches fairness for all.

Original post: "SB 5: A qualified endorsement" from Feb. 22

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