To say that I am dazed and confused about Ohio Senate Bill 5 is putting it mildly.
I don’t think I have ever heard such venomous rhetoric about a single topic in my lifetime.
Both sides of SB 5 are engaged in a shouting match of hyperbole that's totally lacking in clarity and reason.
Trying to get to the truth about SB 5 is pretty much a lost cause. I looked up the entire bill on the state of Ohio’s website. The bill is 304 pages long and filled with government bafflegab. I tried very hard to read the bill but soon gave up the ghost.
I tried reading all the comments about SB 5 on North Canton Patch but was bewildered by the lack of sound arguments and reason on both sides.
Patch readers on both sides of the argument seem more intent on degrading the other side rather than giving the facts in a civil manner. Most of the comments made by both sides made me so upset that I had to reread my last . Most of the people leaving comments left me feeling that they were doing little more than venting.
As a retired public employee, I feel assailed and reviled on all fronts, so I thought I might offer my view for what it is worth.
When I went to work as a draftsman for the city of Canton, Ohio, in 1966 at the whopping hourly wage of $1.75, I did receive generous fringe benefits. 1966 was a time when the Ferguson Act governed the employer/employee relations of government employees in Ohio. Basically, public employees in Ohio in 1966 had no rights whatsoever. At that time government employees were not allowed to collectively bargain for anything. Nor were they allowed to join unions or strike. The ability to get a job in government was pretty much dependent upon political connections except for a few technical employees at a time when the world of government affairs was a pretty much a low tech enterprise.
What most people lose sight of is the fact that almost all of the fringe benefits that many people feel excessive were already in place at a time before government employees gained the right to unionize in 1983. In 1966 sick leave of 15 days a year was already in place. The vacation package given to public employees in 1966 was good, but really not any better than private companies I have worked for.
Comprehensive health care at the time was known as “hospitalization” because it only covered a trip to the hospital and not office visits. The all inclusive form of health care that we know now evolved slowly, because in those days it was cheaper to offer public employees fringe benefits instead of wage increases. The big jump in health care coverage came about in the late '70s and early '80s when state and local governments attempted to head off the union movement by trying to bribe public employees into not forming unions by offering extra fringe benefits. Almost all of the fringe benefits that certain politicians and voters feel are excessive were already in place before government workers became unionized. Once those of us who worked for the city of Canton became members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) we saw very little increase in fringe benefits and only moderate wage gains. Once we became unionized, government employees and our political leaders assumed the position of adversaries; a position that only lead to conflict.
At the time of my hiring in 1966, my employee contribution to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS) was 8.5 percent: much higher than employee contributions to Social Security. The disparity between employee contributions to the two systems has narrowed a little, but public employees in Ohio still pay a larger share of their wages to OPERS than workers covered by Social Security pay into the Social Security system. The current contribution rate is to OPERS is 10 percent and this is where I am concerned with statements made in a TV ad by Gov. John Kasich. In the ad, an indignant looking Kasich says in a rather harsh voice something to the effect that public employees should be required to pay 10 percent toward their retirement. I am not sure if I am missing something here or not, but maybe his writers should do a little fact checking since nearly all public employees are paying 10 percent or more. But both sides are remiss in bringing retirement benefits into the quagmire surrounding SB 5. Those retirement benefits and contribution rates are being addressed by two bills currently in the Ohio legislature: House Bill 69 and Senate Bill 3, which are currently on the back burner awaiting the outcome of the war over SB 5.
Contributions toward the cost of health care is another point of contention between proponents and opponents of SB 5. Almost everyone I know including myself is contributing more and more toward their health care and I can see nowhere in SB 5 where the bigger issues surrounding the state of health care in the United States are being addressed.
But I think the biggest issue confronting people of reason is the attempt to take away the right of public employees to negotiate in good faith with their employers. Or should I say the representatives of their employers for I always felt that the citizens of the city of Canton and not the politicians were my true employers. If this right is taken away we risk going back to the era of cronyism that marked the years before 1983. I am not a fan of unions: They never really did anything for me except pocket my union dues. But to arbitrarily take away their right to bargain in good faith is a step backward. Most reasonable people in the United States see the need to reform our society’s excesses. Making the public employee the scapegoat for the problems that were created by politicians will not solve the situation. Sure, we are all mad about the current state of affairs in the United States. I like most people am mad as hell at both of our political parties; but taking away the rights of public employees will not do much to solve our problems. Our problems can only be solved by all Americans coming together to work as a unified people to solve those problems.