Oregon City Council last week passed a resolution urging the Ohio Senate to defeat Senate Bill 5, which restricts collective bargaining rights for public workers and strips away their right to strike.
At the meeting Feb. 28, Councilman Mike Sheehy introduced the resolution, which was not originally on the meeting’s agenda.
Sheehy called Senate Bill 5 “an assault on collective bargaining for public employees in many of the states throughout the union.”
“In almost every state of the union, there’s some real issues as far as funding for state government. But even in those states where there is no collective bargaining, they have the same problems as the states that have collective bargaining. You can’t really blame that on collective bargaining. There has been collective bargaining and unionization of public employees for decades in Ohio. I feel strongly this is a right of workers. I think it’s moving quickly in several state legislatures,” said Sheehy.
Administrator Mike Beazley said the resolution essentially urges the defeat of Senate Bill 5, and expresses support for collective bargaining rights for workers.
Councilman Jerry Peach said if the bill is passed, “it’s my understanding that it would deny the ability of the City of Oregon to negotiate directly with its employees with respect to health care issues and other non-wage issues.”
“That really reaches into the local right to deal directly with its employees,” said Peach.
“Home rule is an excellent point,” said Councilman James Seaman. “But I will tell you that they have in Senate Bill 5 the ability to furlough an employee for 110 days without collecting unemployment. That’s harsh and unfair. People have worked very hard to get collective bargaining in the state. It’s been implemented since 1983. The American way is when changes are made, they’re small and incremental, not all or nothing.”
He also said the bill wants to do away with seniority. “That’s dear to our workers hearts. It’s important. The plight of people who are not working in a union, their position has been upgraded because of the labor movement in this country over the years,” said Seaman.
“I think all of us recognize that the state of Ohio is in one of the greatest financial challenges it’s been in in years,” said Peach. “There is much in this proposed senate bill to object to. I don’t think we ought to lose sight of the fact that almost always there is some way of doing things better. I don’t want to assume that there aren’t people of good will who would find changes related to our collective bargaining law worth doing. In fact, our own state senator has said that the collective bargaining law needs some tweaking. Nonetheless, this bill is not just about collective bargaining at the state level. It reaches out and touches, at least as currently proposed, school systems, local government, and as proposed, is overreaching.”
Peach said he supports that part of the resolution that underscores the objections “in non-political language.” He said he doesn’t support language in the resolution that calls the bill an attack on workers.
“I think it would be useful for this legislative body to simply state that the city of Oregon council opposes Senate Bill 5. The reasons are clear for anyone to see in the preface. I think it sends a clear message. If we simply could put a period after that and drop the language after that, I would be able to support this resolution,” said Peach.
Sheehy said he would support removing the language, “assuming that language could be considered somewhat incendiary.”
But Seaman said even the President of the United States called a bill in Wisconsin that is similar to Ohio’s “an attack on the working person of our country.”
“Why don’t we call it what it is? This is what I prefer to vote on, personally. If it’s not an attack, what is it then?” asked Seaman.
Councilman Terry Reeves agreed with Seaman.
“I believe it should be left in. It is an attack not only on government workers, but teachers. It is an attack on the right of government workers. I think it needs to be left in,” said Reeves.
Council voted 4-2 against removing that part of the resolution. Sheehy, Reeves, Seaman, and Council President Clint Wasserman voted to keep the language intact, while Peach and Councilman Dennis Walendzak voted to remove the language.
“I am in full support of the resolution, but I agree with Councilman Peach that it clearly states why we’re against it in the resolution itself,” said Walendzak.
Council voted 5-1, with Peach abstaining, to pass the resolution.