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Collisions loom for public, unions

November 26, 2011
Salem News

Nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters supported public employee unions in the election earlier this month. At the same time, all over the Buckeye State, voters made it more difficult for school boards and other local government entities to meet union demands.

Two thoughts seemed to rule the electorate on Election Tuesday: First, by agreeing to rescind the SB 5 law, voters said they want unions to continue to be able to make expensive demands of government bodies such as school boards. But second, by rejecting most local tax initiatives, voters seemed to indicate they are willing to spend only bare minimums for government services.

Unfortunately, those are not two unrelated tracks of thinking. They are contradictory views headed toward each other on the same track - and collisions will be inevitable. In fact, some already are occurring, as school districts, some in our area, have to lay off employees because of the high cost of union contracts.

It needs to be noted that in some cases union members have made substantial sacrifices in order to avoid layoffs of their peers.

Such teamwork between unions and management becomes increasingly difficult as school and other local government budget crunches become tighter, however. And they are growing worse in many school districts. Just 22 percent of the school tax issues on local ballots last week were approved by voters. That means educators will have to find ways - perhaps including union concessions - to balance the books.

SB 5 resulted in a head-to-head battle involving Gov. John Kasich and the General Assembly on one side, with organized labor on the other.

Clearly, however, that cannot be the last chapter in reforming rules for public employee collective bargaining. Now, union leaders and the politicians need to get their heads together to devise changes in reaction to an electorate that seems to be demanding more from local and state governments - but wants to pay less for it.



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