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How will our teachers buy apples?

This week I’m off to the heart doctor to get a stress test. It’s a relatively painless way to find out how your circulation system is doing. Sometimes arteries get blocked by unwise eating, not enough exercise, and stress.

When that happens, blood can’t circulate and it clogs at the top near the heart or brain and can shut down the whole system.

Ohioans are under a lot of stress right now, with the continued rough economy.

Teachers and other public employees are especially stressed by the attacks on them from the Governor, the Chambers of Commerce, and even the 200,000-member Farm Bureau, which apparently wants to reduce public workers to the sad state of many farm workers who are notoriously underpaid and have few benefits.

Most farm workers don’t have a union, so about the only right they have is to “receive written notice of the terms and conditions of their employment.”

Take it or leave it.

That’s about where teachers and other public employees would be if the governor—who sends his kids to private schools—and Chamber and Farm bureau executives have their way.

Of course, they deny they want to return Ohio workers to this take-it-or-leave it, serfdom status. In their misleading TV commercials—paid for by their billionaire backers—they say teachers can still have a union and still bargain.

Unfortunately, since most executives and wealthy farm owners don’t bargain with their workers, they have no knowledge of the bargaining process, and, apparently, the would-be law they support.

Unless Ohio voters vote no on Issue 2, teachers will only be able to make proposals, but if the school board disagrees, it gets to do what it wanted to do anyway and ignore the ideas, needs, and requests of the teachers.

Those ideas are usually about things that benefit the students, like class size, as well as reasonable pay and benefits for themselves. If the teachers would strike — a rarity since teachers got bargaining rights in 1983 — they can be fired.

Interestingly, many strikes occurred before the current bargaining law went into effect, but teachers weren’t fired because, realistically, where do you get several hundred or several thousand teachers overnight to replace those that would be fired?

Teachers believe the Kasich approach would reduce them not to bargaining, but “collective begging,” and taxpayers would lose the benefit of the current law that works quite well for all.

Farm Bureau officials say the restrictions on public employee rights are necessary so officials can cut back to save money. But governments have already cut back, and most public employees have gone without raises in recent years.

Ohio’s public employees don’t have Social Security — which farmers do, paying only 12.4 percent into it, while they want teachers to pay at least 15 percent into their pensions.

The proposed law also would take away the pay increases teachers get for experience, leaving school officials to figure out who gets a raise and who doesn’t.

Maybe school officials will do what corporate executives often do, and just give raises to employees they like or those who go to their church. Or, go back to the time when men were paid more than women.

Any money a small school district saves on this kind of arbitrary system could be lost in lawyers’ fees when employees sue over unfairness.

But if the Governor and his friends at the Chamber and Farm Bureau are right, and they do save money by spending less on education, the net result will be bad for the economy, not good.

Not only will it discourage good people from becoming teachers, but by reducing the amount of money employees have to spend, money will continue to stay at the top, where a handful of folks have scammed the system, taking from the rest of us, but refusing to spend the trillions they have accumulated to hire new employees — because they lack customers.

After all, it’s the purchasing power of private and public employees, and the circulation of money, that buys the products the wealthy provide.

If most of the money is stuck at the top, the system is stressed and strangled. Then who’s going to buy the farmers’ apples?

Jack Burgess is a retired teacher from Portsmouth and former Chief of Arbitration Services for Ohio’s Office of Collective Bargaining.