In fall 2011, voters weighed in on a referendum on Senate Bill 5, Ohio’s anti-collective bargaining law. The referendum was the second issue on the ballot, and was titled Issue 2. (Issue 1 dealt with a constitutional amendment increasing the age limit for judges; Issue 3 was on a constitutional amendment barring laws that require anyone to participate in a health-care system.)
Voters supported repealing the law by about a 2-to-1 margin.
SB 5 would have limited collective bargaining for public employee unions. That means police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees would not have been able to negotiate for health care benefits or pension costs, though they could still bargain over some areas. It also allowed public employers to not bargain over wages and contained an array of changes to Ohio’s current laws, including many changes affecting teachers and school districts.
Those changes included eliminating statutory salary schedules; limiting employer contributions towards health insurance to 85 percent; abolishing new continuing contracts (tenure); and removing consideration of seniority and length of service, by itself, from decisions regarding layoffs.
As written, SB 5 would have taken effect on July 1, 2011. However, it was suspended pending the outcome of the referendum and, with the November election results, will now never be enacted.
The state’s public-sector unions mounted a statewide campaign to repeal SB 5. The campaign pitted public-sector unions fighting for their survival in Ohio and other states against Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other cost-cutting Republican officials.
The successful repeal effort could be seen as a victory for public-sector employee unions fighting to protect their ability to bargain for wages and benefits and a blow to Gov. John Kasich and others who were hoping to reduce government spending and the unions’ power.
The way that Issue 2 appeared on the November 2011 ballot made a “no” vote a vote to repeal SB 5 and a “yes” vote a vote to keep the law in place.