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Which side in SB 5 argument has best pay deal?

Published: Wed, October 26, 2011 @ 12:07 a.m.

SEE ALSO: Dem, Republican debate SB 5

RELATED: Voters who oppose SB 5 on rise

By Marc Kovac



Proponents of Senate Bill 5 point to examples of public-sector unions whose members are paying less than the new law’s proposed requirements for health insurance and pension contributions.

Isn’t it terrible, they posit, those employees are getting raises and potentially paying little or nothing for their health and retirement benefits when the people footing the bills are getting paid less and have, in the words of Gov. John Kasich earlier this year, “shabby at best” benefits?

SB 5 opponents call that line of campaign rhetoric hogwash, saying public employees have forgone pay raises and, for the most part, are paying more than their fair share of their health and pension costs.

Isn’t it terrible, the opponents posit, that fat-cat politicians and government managers continue to enjoy the kinds of pay raises and benefits they want to take away from policemen and firefighters and other public servants?

That’s the crux of what has become one of the most divisive arguments in the Issue 2/SB 5 campaign.

Of the numerous provisions included in the 300-plus page bill, public- employee compensation has received considerable attention.

Both sides have studies and statistics to back up their positions.

“It is not unreasonable to ask government workers to pay 15 percent of the cost of their health care,” Sen. Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina who supports the bill, said during a recent Issue 2 debate.

Faber stressed giving taxpayers a voice: “Ask county workers to pay 15 percent of their health care or employ five more sheriff’s deputies. It’s a pretty easy decision for the taxpayers.”

During the same debate, Dale Butland, spokesman for Innovation Ohio countered, “Ninety-four percent of all public workers already pay 10 percent of their pension contributions. Ninety percent pay toward their health insurance, and all state workers already pay 15 percent.”

The Studies

Statistics indicate that public-sector wages increased more than private-sector wages over the past decade, and more public-sector workers had access to insurance, pensions and other benefits.

Additionally, public employers paid a larger percentage of the costs for benefits than private-sector employers.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, public-sector wages in Ohio rose from an average of $32,922 in 2000 to $42,923 in 2009, an increase of about 30 percent.

Average private-sector wages rose from $32,192 in 2000 to $40,128 in 2009, an increase of about 25 percent. The results were not adjusted for inflation, said Ben Johnson, department spokesman.

Nationally, retirement and medical benefits were offered to 99 percent of full-time public employees, according to the most recent survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ninety-eight percent of public workers received paid sick leave.

By contrast, 73 percent of full-time, private-sector employees had access to retirement benefits, 85 percent had access to medical care and 75 percent had access to paid sick leave.

Also, according to BLS, “For single coverage, employers paid 88 percent of the medical-care premiums for full-time state and local government workers and 80 percent of the medical-care premiums for full-time private industry workers. For family coverage, employers paid 71 percent of the medical-care premiums for full-time workers in state and local government and 69 percent in private industry.”

Both sides of Issue 2 have released their own studies in an attempt to better account for such differences. Opponents cite an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper titled “Are Ohio Public Employees Over-Compensated?” Proponents side with a study written by the American Enterprise Institute, commissioned by the Ohio Business Roundtable, titled, “Public vs. Private Sector Compensation in Ohio.”

The two studies do agree on one issue: State and local government employees in Ohio earn less in wages than their counterparts of equal educational attainment and other factors. The institute puts public employees about 3.3 percent below private-sector employees, while the Roundtable study puts the difference at about 2.5 percent.

That’s about the only area where the two sides are even close in their comparisons, however.

According to EPI, public employees receive a higher portion of their compensation in the form of employer- provided benefits. For example, 26.7 percent of state and local government pay packages go to benefits, compared to 18.9-22.8 percent in the private sector.

Public employees receive pensions, while private-sector employees have been shifted to 401(k) and other defined-contribution plans, “and many private-sector employers do not pay any contribution toward their employees’ retirement compensation beyond Social Security.”

Public employees also receive “considerably less supplemental pay,” “somewhat less vacation time” and less compensation through mandated benefits, such as Social Security.

EPI concludes, “Considering both the cost of employer-provided benefits and direct wages, public-sector workers in Ohio receive compensation that is slightly less than what they would receive in the private sector. ... Public employees are not overpaid.”

“Public-sector workers generally get a little less in wages, and they generally get a little more in some of the benefits,” said Amy Hanauer, founding executive director of Policy Matters Ohio.

“The pensions in the public sector are really much, much more generous than what the typical private-sector worker would get,” counters Andrew Biggs, co-author of the Roundtable study.

The Roundtable study concludes, “Even if the provisions of Senate Bill 5 were implemented in full, it is very likely that Ohio public-sector workers would continue to enjoy a substantial compensation premium over private-sector Ohioans.”


Under SB 5, public employees would be required to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance premiums, and it would block public employers from paying any portion of workers’ required pension contribution.

Building a Better Ohio, the proponent campaign for Issue 2, cites numerous communities where employees are paying less for health insurance or employers are picking up more of the costs of pensions.

In Cincinnati, public employees pay 5 percent of their health-insurance premiums. In Dayton, they pay 11 percent. In Lima, there are school districts paying as little as 1.4 percent. And in 91 public school districts statewide, employees are paying nothing toward their health insurance, proponents say.

Republicans estimated during the legislative debate on SB 5 that local governments would save “more than $1 billion just by requiring government employees to pay 20 percent of their health-care costs and by eliminating step increases and longevity pay.”

“The private sector right now is bearing the brunt of the burden,” Faber said. “The [93 percent] of Ohioans who aren’t government employees are paying 100 percent for the government employees, and they’re paying 31 percent for themselves.”

But opponents say there are numerous communities where public employees are paying more than their fair share toward health insurance.

“There’s nothing wrong with 10 and 15 [percent toward pension and health insurance] if that is part of a local conversation,” said Jay McDonald, president of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. “I pay more than 20 percent for my health care. I pay 20 percent plus I contribute to a health savings account, [with a] high deductible health plan up front.”

Opponents also say public employees, in response to difficult economic circumstances in recent years, have offered contract concessions,

“Our people have been giving concessions, giving money back to their employers, to keep their operations running for quite some time,” McDonald said. “All you have to do is look back at state employees who gave back $350 million under [former Gov.] Ted Strickland to help make the budget balanced.”


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

***** Yes on Issue 2 *****

It's all about fairness to the taxpayers! Paying 10% toward your pension and 15% toward your healthcare is extremely fair to me.

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2ohio48(17 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Here's the deal: 1. While public employees do pay towards their retirement and benefits, not ALL of them pay at the minimum SB5 asks them to pay. There are some school districts and municpalities that pick up THE ENTIRE TAB of the employee's share for health care. Not fair. 2. Public employees state that the private sector has social security benefits for retirement,while the public employee cannot collect on social security. That's like comparing apples and oranges. I don't think anyone retiring on social security could: A) retire at age 50 or 55 B) rely SOLELY on the funds of social security benefits to live out the remainder of their retirement years C) those who collect social security also have to pay into some sort of retirement fund to supplement their retirement income 3. Most public employees are paid adequately for their experience and education. However, I do think public employee ADMINSTRATORS get paid too much. Check out the salaries of college presidents and school district superintendants. SB5 DOES NOT STATE THAT PUBLIC EMPLOYEES CANNOT NEGOTIATE THEIR WAGES. 4. Automatic step increases are unfair to those public employees that work harder than their union counterparts who do not play by the same rules. There is nothing wrong with paying somebody who works harder a little more based on merit. SB5 fixes that. 5. Many in the private sector don't have to BEG their bosses for fair working conditions or pay raises as I hear this lie being spread around by many. There are labor laws that protect ALL EMPLOYEES. No need to collectively bargain about everything related to working conditions. Collective bargaining RIGHTS is a term used too loosely. It is not a RIGHT equal to civil RIGHTS, or religious RIGHTS, or any other right that is afforded by the constitution of the U.S. Collective bargaining is A PRIVILEDGE afforded by union dues...not a RIGHT


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3ohio48(17 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

One other point: Public union workers are in conflict with private union workers in respect to whose interests are protected and whose money is being spent to pay for their deals. When the private union sector union employee negotiates at the table, they negotiate for THEIR OWN interests with management represented at the table. Negotiatians are possible depending on THE PROFITS available from the company. When the public union employee negotiates, they negotiate for their interests, for the interest of those they serve, with administration and/or members of boards at the table. HOWEVER, they negotiate for from TAXPAYER funds to pay for what they need. WHO REPRESENTS THE TAXPAYER AT THEIR TABLE?

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4jethead11(139 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Another reason to support SB5 is that it will permit teachers, firefighters, etc to opt out of union membership if they so choose. I saw a report yesterday that said over 50% of teachers in Wisconsin have opted to leave the union. That's a choice ALL people should have. No one should be forced to support a union and its politics if they do not want to.

Also, all the whining about not being able to strike. Federal employees are permitted to unionize, but they are forbidden to strike. SB5 is pretty similar to the federal law, but you don't hear them complaining, and their pay has gone up even more than state employees.

The bottom line is the Democrats don't want to loose a funding source that makes people pay up or lose their jobs. Save that mentality for the mafia. What better reason to vote yes.

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5VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

If SB5, aka Issue 2 is defeated, you will see the lay-off of hundreds of state, local and school employees in order to balance the budget. These lay-offs will include teachers, police and firemen.

If you want to do the right thing for your community, vote YES on Issue 2.

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6lilgandee(103 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Vote yes for fairness, and if your already paying the proposed amount then no problem. Teaching should be based on ability rather than time in. I only hope that it is repealed to save money and a more decent amount put in by government employees. Times are tough for all.

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7jethead11(139 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

hmm...just a few thoughts about your post. First, my main concern is that unions force workers to pay them or be forced out of their jobs. My mission in life is to help stop that unconstitutional and totally immoral practice that should have died in the dark ages. We might still have a steel industry if Ohio were right to work.

Also, saying that it will be illegal to talk to management about anything is simply a lie. That is union propaghanda made to scare people into voting against SB5. It may ban the union from having any say in the matter, but if you need equipment, the union (or you) could go to a city council meeting and address them and the public, you could talk directly to the head of your department, you could call the press, many ways to communicate what you need.

Go back and look at the actual wording of the law to see if what the union told you was true. If it is not, be sure to let your union rep know that you do not appreciate being lied to by your paid representative.

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8CantStandYa(222 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

SB5 will stay. Mark it.

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9fd6636(289 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Sooo what percentages do the politicians WHO ARE PUBLIC SERVENTS pay??? Most of the public work enviornments ARE paying their fair share. So, again, I ask how much do the politicans in columbus pay? how much towards health care do Kasich;s unproven, double digit raise paid round table pay towards health care and benefits? or, are the politicans, and their croonies exempt from that too??? Public employees have paid more into benefits, more towards pension more towards hospitalization, again, repeat: what about those lawmakers who, after 4 years get a large pension and benefits for life that I have to work a mininum of 25 years for, what are those public servents paying??? whats good for the geese isn't really good for the gander, is it??? The people of Ohio are starting to see the holes, and land mines in senate bill 5. VOTE NO, ISSUE 2.

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10NoBS(2845 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

OK, jethead, it's not illegal to talk to management about *anything* but it is illegal to talk to them about certain things.

"Specifically, the law amends a portion of Sec. 4117.08 of the Ohio Revised Code to say "the number of employees required to be on duty or employed in any department, division or facility of a public employer" is a subject "not appropriate" for collective bargaining.

Other topics prohibited from negotiations under this section of the law include pension pickups – the practice of employers paying a share of workers’ pension contributions – and health care benefits."

You admit the employees will not have any say. What's the point of talking/negotiating if one side has no say in the outcome?

Are you serious? Go to the press to try to embarrass management into purchasing needed safety equipment? Right - THAT won't have any repercussions!

If Ohio were a right to work state, not a whole lot would be different, except that the working people would be even poorer and the rich would be richer.

Issue 2 is union-busting. Nothing more. And let me remind you of the history around here - the steel barons decided to "get even" with the newborn unions back in the day, so they stopped reinvesting the profits into the company. Instead, they lined their pockets, and the company and workers be damned. We had the technology to modernize the steel mills - we built more modern mills in Japan post-WW2 than we had here - but the steel barons were too busy "showing the unions who's boss" to improve their own mills.

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11jethead11(139 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

NoBS - workers will have a say, but not through collective bargaining. 88% of the workers in this country are non-union, and workers have plenty of say. They just have to go about it differently, like the rest of us do. In Georgia, teachers make more money given cost of living than teachers anywhere else in the nation. Any they are non-union, and very organized. I know that does not make sense to a lot of union people, but it can be and is done. The difference is the Democrats don't get their pockets lined by doing it other ways.

As far as the steel mills, perhaps you forgot the union would not let management modernize the plants. Remember the "Not One Job" mantra of the SWU. Management tried to modernize the plants, which would lead to job cuts and different skills needed. But the union said h**l no, we want it the old way. So they used 100 year old equipment until they could not sell steel anymore for the price they needed to charge, and they shut the doors.

And if the evil steel barons could have made money with or without a union, believe me, they would have. It's all about money to them. The rest is noise. You don't get rich being emotional with business decisions, and "getting even" is emotional.

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12Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

You can ask the Union for a refund of the money they spent towards political ads if you don't agree with them.

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13AnotherAverageCitizen(1195 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

""Isn’t it terrible, they posit, those employees are getting raises and potentially paying little or nothing for their health and retirement benefits when the people footing the bills are getting paid less and have, in the words of Gov. John Kasich earlier this year, “shabby at best” benefits?""

kasich gave his staff raises and pays his employess more. Too bad sb5 will NOT change this. Once again kasich will take care of himself and his cronies, and make everyone else pay.

"Do as I say not as I do." Not a great leader kasuch.

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14AnotherAverageCitizen(1195 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

cowboy, Can I get a refund from the state since I don't agree with kasich?

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15jethead11(139 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

AnotherAverageCitizen: so I wonder how the public employees that work for Kasich got a raise without the help of a union. Gee, maybe unions really are not needed. Maybe there are other ways to get what you want. I know, radical thinking.

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16AnotherAverageCitizen(1195 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Its called DONATING to your boss. I don't do that just to get a job., I just WORK for a living.

Oh and 4 months of work earns them double digit raises, retroactive to Jan. ? WOW they must be really good at SUCKING up to kasich.

From a state that is broke. Stupid. Just plain STUPID.

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17jethead11(139 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

AnotherAverageCitizen, I am not sure who specifically you are talking about, but I'll take you at your word. Although we both know Republicans and Democrats alike do the very same thing, give sweetheart deals to their cronies. It is wrong when both do it. But I think this issue is being used just to get more people angry at Kasich so they will vote against SB5. Union bosses are the biggest Democrat cronies who get major sweetheart deals like preferred stock in GM when other investors lost everything. Not a lot of people on the left complaining about that. If you've lived in the Mahoning Valley for more than a few years you can site tons of examples of Democrats paying off cronies.

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18NoBS(2845 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

jethead writes: "workers will have a say, but not through collective bargaining. 88% of the workers in this country are non-union, and workers have plenty of say. They just have to go about it differently, like the rest of us do."

Um, the rest of us don't have specific wording in the laws denying us the ability to bring up certain subjects our bosses find uncomfortable.

Why on earth do you equate unionism with the Democrat party, as if unions are an offshoot of that party? You are aware that unions can and do endorse Republicans now and then, aren't you? Of course, those are Republicans who aren't actively working against the working middle class, which are becoming few and far between.

As for the steel mills, you sure have a slanted way of remembering things. Management tried to outsource and do away with jobs - not the same thing as modernizing.

And if you don't get rich by "getting even" then please explain how Kasich and his cronies are so rich. If you don't think he's getting even with public employee unions, you're unaware of anything.

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19YtownParent(1089 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Ohio is a right to work state, as far as every job application & human resource paperwork I've ever filled out states. Either employees or employers can terminate employment at any time without reason. There are just cause protections for employees who can prove they were terminated for unjust reasons, but there are no protections for anyone who wants to opt out of union membership. Unions want contracts to circumvent what every other employee has to live with, the knowledge that their boss can terminate them at anytime.

The whole debate and vote is a mute in my view. If healthcare and pension costs aren't controlled then the state can and will do what other private companies do: declare the costs of doing business too great, close shop, wait a few weeks and open up as a different company, under a different name, hiring employees with lower wages and lower (or nonexistent) benefits. The state can do the same thing with every department, without anyone ever having to vote on it.

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20honestman(33 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

ok, time for more of my 2 cents, i worked a non union job for years, and guess what they lost a class action lawsuit after abusing workers by making them work off the clock, miss breaks, work thru lunches, and if you didnt you didnt get a good review, which meant a small or no raise, i left, a few years later the company decided to reclassify jobs so if you worked somewhere that was only worth 9 bucks an hour and you had been there for 18 years and where making 15 bucks an hour, guess what stay at 9 or get fired, real fair. thats a business with no union. i paid for my benifits and i got sick days just like i do now, but now, i cant get fired if my boss wants me to work for free and i dont do it. and some good points where made why isnt kasucks taking a pay cut, how can he give raises, we, the backbone of this country, the blue collar worker are being targeted by the ruling elite. i pay 10% for health care now, with a reopener this year which means its gonna go up, i'm okay with that. when i retire yes i get a pension, but i'm also gonna pay between 400 and 500 for family benifits. and i pay into social security, which is your pension, and i dont get any of it. i've said it before, the facts are all on the net, look it up, fire and pd contracts are public record, look it up, stop buying into all the bs. and giving the governing body total say is horsecrap, we have a fair system now, binding arbitration looks at a townships financial records, tax base etc. they dont just come in and spin a wheel to decide a wage, and the steel barrons soldt out america because they couldnt stuff enough money into thier own pockets, 2/5 is union busting, here's a good comparison for pro 2 people, you break your arm what do you do? do your cut off the whole arm or do your cast the arm and let it heal. sb5 cuts off the arm, it doesnt fix anything. comparing pension to soc sec is not apples and oranges, its granny smith vs golden delicious. toy, the reb dont want to run the govt. they want to hant it over to big business and let them rape the state, sb5, private turnpike, etc. whats next, sweat shops, child labor, well not for the rich's kids, but for most of us. i'll bet, we are resetting the clock back to turn of the century america where workers had no rights. if business was fair we wouldnt need unions, but business is not fair.

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21ohio48(17 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Honestman ~ I get that some businesses aren't fair to their workers. But, please don't paint all businesses into one category, as if you knew about every private company.

I, too, worked for a private corporation and was paid a HEFTY gain sharing (like a profit sharing) at the end of every year, as long as the company was making a profit. Thousands of dollars...no small change. No, I'm not college degreed.

I chose a career as a public employee, but I don't think this bill is over reaching.

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