Ohio Issue 2 Campaigns Heat Up, Seek Voter Attention.

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State of Ohio Flag(Photo: File photo)
State of Ohio Flag(Photo: File photo)

With less than two months till election day, the war over Issue 2 is just getting started, and it’s expected to get expensive and nasty. Two key Senators have very different perspectives on what the law that created that issue would and would not do.

The dispute over the facts in Issue 2 goes back to the beginning of the battle over Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining reform law that goes into effect if Issue 2 is approved. Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Keith Faber of Celina says Senate Bill 5 might have had a different result if Democrats had offered suggestions or amendments.

“It’s real tough to say what should have been or shouldn’t have been in the bill when the other side didn’t come to the table, didn’t negotiate – and frankly, the response we kept hearing was ‘kill the bill’.” Says Faber.

But Democratic Senator Joe Schiavoni of Youngstown says the bill was introduced in the Republican-dominated Senate on February 1 and signed into law March 30 – and he says even if Republicans were willing to hear proposals for changes, that’s not a lot of time to look over a multi-hundred page bill that made significant changes to a 28 year old law.

“Well, we didn’t even have a chance to go through it.” Says Schiavoni. “When we finally did, it was so – it took away all collective bargaining rights away from public employees. So how do you amend that bill?”

But Faber says the process to pass the state’s original collective bargaining law in 1983 was faster than the process to pass Senate Bill 5.

“We had weeks of testimony before the committee. We had weeks that this was considered.
Kasler:‘Weeks’ like one or two weeks, rather than five or six weeks?
Faber: It was plural. But again, in a Senate session where we’re considering other matters, that’s a long time.”

But Schiavoni says Faber and other Republicans should have expected the vitriolic reaction to the bill, which they got when thousands of angry protestors packed the Statehouse this winter.

“When you’re messing with people’s ability to make money and their rights that they’ve had, then they’re going to be upset.”

Schiavoni and Faber can’t even agree on the description of the underlying premise of the bill – Faber says collective bargaining is still allowed for wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.

“If that’s killing collective bargaining, then you have a very different definition of what is killing collective bargaining than what I do.”

But Schiavoni says the new rule that says management’s last best offer stands when unions and management can’t come to a deal – with no third-party arbitrator to decide – means that collective bargaining is done.

“How are the workers ever going to win? Sen. Grendell came out and he said it’s collective beginning. Sen. Seitz came out and said it’s like flipping a two-headed coin and management has the heads every time.”

Tim Grendell of northeast Ohio and Bill Seitz of Cincinnati are two of the six Republicans who voted against Senate Bill 5. The facts about the law that are being tossed about by both sides are being checked by journalists and activists for and against Issue 2. And Faber says one claim that’s not true is that lawmakers exempted themselves from Senate Bill 5’s provisions.

“We pay between 15-18% for our health care, and if you get your pension through the state, you pay 10%. And so those are what we’re asking government workers around Ohio to have the same deal that state legislators have.
Schiavoni: But that’s the smallest part of Senate Bill 5. And you just keep talking about the same part, but that’s the smallest part.
Faber: I would say that’s the major part. That’s where the savings come in.
Schiavoni: Why didn’t we just do that bill?
Faber: If you offered amendments, maybe we could have worked on that.”

Faber talks up the pension, health care and merit pay provisions of the law – which are the elements that got support from likely voters in the last Quinnipiac poll on Issue 2. But Issue 2 opponents, who boast of more than 1.3 million signatures to put it onto the ballot, also note that poll shows a majority of voters want to scrap the law.

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