Collective bargaining bill generates hot debate

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hard-working Ohioans who provide public safety, education and other services to our state deserve our acclaim and respect.

One of the humbling responsibilities I have as a legislator is to visit those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty — whether it is in the military, police or fire safety forces.

This can certainly be a difficult and emotionally gripping task, as I hold these men and women in the highest esteem.

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I also try to visit our local schools quite often, and I can tell you that the trials and situations that educators face with their students can be overwhelming.

I have visited many prisons in our area, and believe me, they are tough places.

Finally, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) workers are often out sacrificing themselves for our state in subzero weather, while everyone else is comfortably in bed. These are not easy jobs, and the people who perform them deserve our gratitude.

As you have probably seen in the news, Senate Bill 5 proposes to change collective bargaining in Ohio. Some public sector workers see it as an attack.

With a 17 percent drop in revenue and an $8 billion budget hole, we have to look at the way we do things and see if there is a better and more cost-efficient way to get the job done.

Public workers — whether they work for the state, local governments or school districts — are an important part of that equation. Eighty-five percent of the state budget flows directly to local communities to provide services.

As a former local official, I used collective bargaining as a way to work with my fellow employees. I support collective bargaining.

However there are some issues that have changed since the time it was enacted, such as the costs of health care.

Collective bargaining prevents entities from managing their employees and resources in the most cost-effective manner.

This can mean a drain of thousands of dollars that cost public workers their jobs and disable services to the public.

It should be acknowledged that state workers and many other public workers have already made sacrifices in pay and other benefits.

You might remember that in the past I was spurred by some highly damaging strikes in our area to introduce a bill that requires all school labor disputes be settled by binding arbitration.

I do not believe a child should have to cross the picket line to go to school. School strikes are highly damaging to the community as a whole by causing economic devastation.

The employees lose money, the community gets a black eye, the school loses students and it suffers other economic damage.

As this debate moves forward and eventually comes to the Ohio House, my standard will be to ensure fairness for both public workers and the taxpayers.

It is not going to be easy. Many public employees are saying to just raise taxes, while other Ohioans are struggling to pay their taxes at current rates.

While federal stimulus money masked the problem of government lagging behind the private sector for a while, it is now time to make decisions that address the problem. This includes some sacrifices by everyone.

Though I do not believe raising taxes is an option, it is my hope that we can get through the budget challenges before us with mutual respect and sincere contemplation of how we can move our state forward.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He may be reached at (614) 466-1366 or by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. He can also be reached via e-mail his office at