The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office has certified for the November 2011 ballot a referendum petition seeking to overturn Senate Bill 5, the sweeping bill signed into law on April 1 which dramatically cuts the collective bargaining rights of public safety employees. Opponents of SB 5 submitted 915,456 valid signatures in support of the referendum; Ohio law required only 231,147 signatures.
SB 5 was the product of contentious and partisan debate in the Ohio legislature. The Ohio Senate voted 17-16 for the measure, with Republican senators accounting for all 17 votes. The measure passed the Ohio House of Representatives by a 53-44 vote, with Republican house members accounting for all 53 votes. The bill was signed by Republican Governor John Kasich, who made cutting of public employee bargaining rights a key feature of his gubernatorial campaign.
SB 5 would bring about numerous changes in Ohio’s collective bargaining law. Binding arbitration would no longer be the last step in the bargaining process for law enforcement officers and firefighters. Several topics would be deemed illegal for bargaining, including contribution levels to retirement systems, subcontracting, and staffing levels. SB 5 would also prohibit employers from paying more than 85% of health care premiums, would bar seniority from being the only factor considered in layoffs, would prohibit step increases from being based on time in service rather than merit, and would declare illegal “fair share” clauses in contracts that allow unions to charge a service fee to non-members.
Because the necessary number of signatures was submitted for the referendum, the changes mandated by SB 5 may not be implemented pending the results of the November election.