Testimony before the Insurance, Commerce, and Labor Committee on Senate Bill 5

By Matt A. Mayer

Thank you Chairman Bacon, Vice Chair Faber, Ranking Member Schiavone, and Members of this Committee for the opportunity to come before you to provide information concerning the rights of public sector workers to collectively bargain. I am the President of The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free market research and education think tank. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Buckeye Institute.

I’d like to take this opportunity to issue a note of bewilderment. Given some of the rhetoric from my friends on the Left, one would think that this issue — public-sector collective bargaining — is a purely illegitimate action to question, a topic unworthy of debate, and something beyond any reasonable person’s idea of civilized discussion. As if the rights given through the sheer brute force of a partisan group of politicians in 1983, if taken away in 2011 by similar means, would be tantamount to an unprecedented act in the history of Ohio.

We know there is bipartisan support across Ohio to tweak these rights, including from mayors and other governmental leaders. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and union leaders who really did spill blood to protect workers during the age of sweatshops, unsafe factories, and employer-hired goon violence opposed giving public sector workers the right to collectively bargain.

Are there truly no elements of the current system that the Left will concede need to be reformed? Pay spiking? Double dipping? Massive sick leave payouts? Pension pick-ups? Longevity pay? COLAs greater than inflation? Highest-three-year-salary pension formulas? Early retirement? Million dollar secretive retirement programs? As private sector Ohioans suffer, is the status quo for government workers appropriate?

Ohio in 2011 is not America in 1938. Government workers already have the protection of civil service laws. With the proliferation of wage and hour laws, environmental laws, anti-discrimination laws, and other workplace protections that do or easily could protect government workers, is it really that unreasonable to suggest that perhaps adding unions on top is unnecessary and costly? Government offices, precincts, stations, and schools are far from sweatshops and coalmines.

For those same people who advocate for more government, do they not recognize the irony of wanting more of something they believe will mistreat its own workers unless unions were present to keep them at bay? Do they really believe that without unions, voters would stand idly by as leaders abused their neighbors who protect us, teach our children, and provide other necessary government functions? With the proliferation of technologies such as Twitter, cell phone cameras, email, and blogs to add transparency and accountability when the media fail to provide those desperately needed elements, does anyone really believe that but for unions government exempt employees will be able to oppress and mistreat government nonexempt employees?

To read the rest of Matt Mayer’s testimony, click here: Senate Bill 5