Ohio Senate passes PEU bargaining restrictions

While everyone focused their attention on Wisconsin, Ohio’s John Kasich managed to sneak the ball across the goal line in Ohio.  The new Republican Governor won a razor-thin victory in the state Senate yesterday on restrictions for public-employee union collective bargaining, and now passes to the lower chamber, where it is expected to pass.  Kasich’s victory has received cheers from unusual places, too:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) owes his Wisconsin gubernatorial colleague Scott Walker (R) some serious gratitude. While nearly all the media attention and labor activism has been centered in Madison over Walker’s controversial budget bill, Kasich is on the verge of passing an equally significant bill restraining collective bargaining rights in the Buckeye State.

The bill passed the state Senate by the narrowest possible margin – and now is virtually assured of being signed into law by the governor next week. It’s awfully similar to the legislation Walker has struggled to pass, in a more politically-consequential state for the 2012 presidential battle. The bill would make Ohio the first state to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees[.]

We may expect to see demonstrations at universities, some featuring the now-hoary Hitler moustaches drawn on pictures of a governor as already seen in Ohio.  Don’t expect the administrations to join the picket lines, however:

Ohio public universities are applauding efforts by lawmakers to curb public-sector union rights.

Passed in the Ohio Senate Wednesday, Ohio Senate Bill 5, which limits collective bargaining rights for public employees, has the support of the Inter-University Council of Ohio.

Council President Bruce Johnson spoke on behalf of Ohio’s 14 public universities last week. Johnson said he believes the bill will save universities money in collective bargaining agreements.

Ohio faces an $8 billion budget shortfall and many universities anticipate that big cuts loom ahead. Johnson said passing a union-busting bill such as SB 5 would help prepare universities for less funding.

That report, with the requisite progressive slant of “union-busting bill,” comes from the Student Free Press, but reporter Amanda Seitz otherwise does a good job of laying out exactly why universities and colleges will welcome SB5.  The unions have made it difficult to efficiently use its labor force through staffing demands, costing millions in duplication at the University of Toledo alone, according to its president, Lloyd Jacobs.  Also, the process for disciplining and terminating poor performers is so cumbersome that it costs the school $8 million a year — which ends up as tuition and fee increases to students.

Johnson asked the pertinent question as his best argument for SB5 and other initiatives which allow management more room to deal with PEUs in an era of shrinking budgets: “Are we going to [budget more efficiently] with management authority or are we going to get bogged down?”

That question, and the success of Kasich and Walker in getting elected on the basis of fighting union prerogatives, has the White House backing away from Big Labor as allies, according to Reid Wilson at the National Journal — although Barack Obama’s healthy ego also comes into play:

For the first time in more than a century, labor is playing a minor role, at best, in a Democratic-led Washington. Party strategists, including some close to the labor movement, say President Obama’s success in 2008 highlighted the deep plunge in union membership, and its influence within the Democratic Party.

One strategist pointed to Pennsylvania, a state in which labor once ruled the Democratic primary. In 2002, former state auditor and now-Sen. Robert Casey had support from every major union in his race for governor; former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell trounced Casey by 13 points in the primary. In 2004, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees threw their support behind Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, just before it imploded. …

Most major unions lined up behind then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., or former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.; the first national union to endorse Obama, the plumbers and pipefitters union, did so on January 9, 2008, after Iowa and New Hampshire had already allocated their delegates. Obama won the Democratic primary with virtually no union help.

The lesson Obama’s team learned, according to Democrats close to the campaign, was that labor’s organizing methods on behalf of Clinton and Edwards were less effective than the organization Obama put together.

I’m not sure that this reflects the reality of the Obama White House, where former SEIU president Andy Stern visited once a week and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka reportedly has daily contact with the administration.  Wilson argues that Obama never seriously pushed labor issues in the first two years of his presidency, but bills like Card Check never had the support to pass anyway — not even within the Senate Democratic caucus.  The legislative failure of the union agenda is a testament to its radical nature, and besides, Obama’s appointment of Craig Becker to the NLRB has given the appearance at least of an end run around Congress on Card Check and other labor priorities.

The ground has shifted under Big Labor, though, in large part due to taxpayer disgust over public spending.  They find themselves on the wrong side of history, and rather than get on the right side, they’ve pushed the Democrats into attacking democracy itself in Wisconsin.  The only destination on that road is further marginalization and destruction of political power.  Kasich and Walker have shone the light on the corrupt connections between PEUs and Democratic officials, and showed that they can be broken.

Update: I was under the impression that the lower chamber in Ohio’s legislature had passed the bill. That comes next. I’ve corrected the first paragraph.

Update II: HA reader Kristen Keith works at the University of Toledo and sends her perspective by e-mail:

It’s pretty clear that the story by Amanda Seitz was based on Lloyd Jacob’s letter in support of SB5.  There is nothing in her story to suggest she talked to anyone else at the University of Toledo who took a contrary view.  I wouldn’t be so quick to take President Jacob’s word about the cost savings from eliminating the faculty’s right to collectively bargain.  Our health care premiums are about 17 percent of the total cost (great deal, I know but not as great as Wisconsin’s public employees) and we pay 10 percent of our gross salary into our pension fund, which is going to go up to 12.5 percent over the next few years. We don’t pay into Social Security as Ohio is one of those states that opted out.   My point is that what we have is really good but President Jacob’s is not going to be able to save much by cost shifting the current employer’s share of our benefits to us.  The only way to save money on faculty is to get rid of us by eliminating departments, programs, etc., which might be easier to do if we’re not unionized.

If Ms. Seitz had talked to a typical faculty member at UT,  she would have heard about the relative size of the administration and how it affects tuition costs and student fees.  The recent study Goldwater Institute’s study of administrative bloat in higher education (http://www.goldwaterinstitute.org/article/4941) showed that between 1993 and 2007, the University of Toledo administrative costs per student rose 140.2 percent, ranking it the 13th highest out of 198 schools.  Administrative costs have only increased since then.  For example, President Jacobs recently broke up the College of Arts and Sciences (which had just turned 100 the previous year) to create 3 new colleges.  Prior to the breakup it had 1 Dean and 3 Associate Deans.  The 3 new colleges have 3 Deans and 4 Associate Deans with new salaries commensurate with their new positions.

In terms of his estimate of the cost of disciplining and terminating poor performers being $8 million a year, remember he also said that “95% of our union workforce are highly effective, diligent, and committed.”  I find it hard to believe the cost of disciplining and terminating the other 5 percent is $8 million per year given I haven’t heard the stories you’d expect to hear if those costs are accurate.  In my opinion, President Jacobs has an agenda – he doesn’t want to share governance with the faculty, which will be easier if we’re not unionized.  I don’t think any of the proposed savings from busting the faculty union will go back to students and their parents in the form of lower tuition. Dr. Jacobs has other projects he wishes to fund.

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