On March 3, 2011, I wrote a blog post about Senate Bill 5 which had just been passed by the Ohio Senate.  S.B. 5 makes sweeping changes to the law of collective bargaining as it applies to public sector employees in Ohio. S.B. 5 has since been amended, was recently passed by the Ohio House and the Senate and, last night, was signed by Governor Kasich. But, whether S.B. 5 will ever become law remains to be seen. Organized labor and other opponents are determined to obtain the necessary 230,000 signatures from registered voters to stall the Bill and have it placed on the ballot in November for a public vote. The time limit for obtaining the necessary signatures is 90 days from the Governor’s signature. If enough signatures are obtained, the law will not take effect unless it is supported by the voters in November.

The major provisions of S.B. 5 as outlined in my earlier article are unchanged by the amendments. The law still imposes significant restrictions on things that can be brought to the bargaining table by unions representing public sector employees. It still eliminates binding arbitration as the means to resolve negotiations disputes with police, firefighters, and other safety forces. Binding arbitration is replaced by a procedure whereby the Legislative body for the employer will select between the last best offer of the employer and the last best offer of the union. The right to strike has been eliminated for all public employees and the law imposes very significant potential penalties for any public employee who does strike.

The final version of S.B. 5 does include some significant changes which were made in the House of Representatives.

  • The Bill now prohibits "fair share fees." Under current law, employees in a unit represented by a union cannot be required to actually join the union, but can be required in a labor contract to pay a fair share fee, which usually is approximately the same as union dues charged to union members. Unions argue that the fair share fee assures that all employees who derive the benefits from the union representation and the labor contract help to pay the cost to negotiate and administer the contract. Under S.B. 5, no employee can be required to join a union and no employee can be required to pay a fair share fee.
  • S.B. 5 prohibits payroll deductions for contributions to union political action committees (although labor contracts can still require payroll deductions to pay actual union dues for union members who authorize the deduction).
  • Under current law, a group of employees represented by a union can petition for an election to de-certify the union only if at least 50% of the employees support the petition. Under Senate Bill 5, a petition for a decertification election can be filed with just a 30% showing of interest, bringing that in line with the decertification rules in the private sector. Once a decertification petition is filed, a decertification election is held and, just as under current law, decertification will occur only if a majority of those who vote in the election support the decertification.

S.B. 5 will continue to be a hotbed of contention and the debate will really heat up this Fall if opponents are successful in having the issue placed on the ballot. Expect a barrage of TV commercial time as both sides will pull out all the stops on this one.