In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Governor-Elect John Kasich discussed Ohio's public sector bargaining process. The comments suggest that change may be on the horizon when it comes to binding interest arbitration for certain public employees.
Ohio law presently limits the right of certain employees to strike. These employees typically hold safety sensitive positions, like police officers and fire fighters. To settle disputed bargaining issues in these units, the law establishes a procedure that requires an arbitrator to hear disputed issues, and then pick the union's proposal or the public employer's proposal. This process is referred to as interest arbitration or conciliation.
At the press conference, the following exchange took place, according to video on The Columbus Dispatch's website:
Q: Now that you have Republicans in the House and a big Republican majority in the Senate, do you have any plans to try to scale back the power of labor unions?
A: . . . I'm not going to get into trying to pick on anybody right now. In terms of what I am concerned about is I'm concerned about the impact of binding arbitration on our cities. You have a situation where an outside person comes in, they mandate settlement on a community, the community has no say, and then that arbiter leaves. That's a flawed system. We intend to take a look at that because that binding arbitration is really hurting cities. . . . This is a very big problem and that's one thing that we are going to look at in terms of labor. . . .
With only two days having passed since the election, it is obviously too early to predict what the newly elected governor or his team may have in mind. If existing law were to change, however, and depending on how the law changed, the implications for public employers could be substantial and multi-faceted. It is certainly an issue that labor professionals in the public sector will want to monitor closely over the coming months.