Legislation would kill teachers#8217; ability to strike

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 17, 2007

Ohio public school teachers could no longer go out on strike if proposed legislation written by State Sen. John Carey (R-Wellston) gets the OK from the Statehouse.

Carey introduced the bill last week where it was referred to the Senate Education Committee. Hearings will begin at the first of year.

Under the proposal, teachers would be classified in the same way as the state’s police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel under Ohio’s collective bargaining law. This would require educators to enter into binding arbitration, as do public safety workers.

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“I represent 10 counties and have been through a few school strikes,” Carey said in a phone interview. “After talking to a lot of teachers, students, school board members and community members who have been through strikes, I decided this is something we need to discuss. If we talk about safety first, I needed to introduce this.”

Ohio is one of 12 states that allow teachers to strike. The other states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, both the school administration and the teachers must agree to go out on strike before one can happen.

According to Mary Ann Philabaum, president of the Ironton Education Association, there is currently no consensus among city teachers as to this bill.

“I don’t know how the teaching staff would feel and I would hate to give a comment,” she said. “As far as I am aware I have been here 31 years, we have never had a strike.”

Twice in the past two decades, teachers came close to striking, but settled before that action was taken.

Statewide, the Ohio Education Association has gone on the record against the proposal.

“The OEA strongly opposes any weakening of Ohio’s long-standing collective bargaining law,” Michele Prater, OEA spokesperson, said. “The social reform proposal to undermine the right to strike would undermine a carefully balanced law that has proven successful in helping educators and schools resolve issues to their mutual benefit.”

Carey intends to call before the upcoming committee hearings school personnel, including teachers, who have gone through previous strikes.

“Teachers who don’t want to be put in that position,” Carey said. “I just want people to know I am open to their ideas on this legislation. Introducing the bill is just a starting point and I am sure we will have a full discussion.”

The OEA will be closely monitoring the progress of the bill, Prater said.