By Sgt. T.J. Assion
Police work is more than a skilled trade and more than a profession. It is a way of life. What law enforcement officers go through “on the job” carries over into our personal lives. For the most part, it makes us better parents, better neighbors and better citizens. Law enforcement is unique in and of itself. A private sector counterpart to a police officer does not exist, because there is no comparison to what we do. In Ohio, a collective bargaining law has existed that has allowed us to negotiate with our elected officials, where we can discuss more than just salaries and benefits. We use collective bargaining for items such as staffing levels and safety equipment. These are items we take seriously, because we know better than an elected official what it takes to keep our communities and each other safe.
Law enforcement is inherently dangerous. And Senate Bill 5 makes it so much more dangerous. If SB 5 were only about public employees paying 10 percent into our pensions and 15 percent toward our health care, then there would be no problem. Approximately 93 percent of all public employees already pay that much, if not more, toward their pensions and the average public employee pays at least 15 percent toward their health care. Police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses and other public employees are problem solvers. When a recession occurred in 2008 and our elected leaders asked us to help with this problem, we stepped up to the plate. During this time, public employees in Ohio have made concessions totaling $1.06 billion. These figures can be verified from the Ohio State Employment Relations Board, whose members are made up of Gov. Kasich’s appointees.
Proponents of SB 5 call it “reasonable reforms” and “necessary tools.” They will tell you that police officers will still be able to negotiate for safety equipment and staffing levels. This is a bold faced lie. It states that if management chooses not to, then the topics of safety equipment and staffing levels become illegal to discuss. This means that politicians get final say concerning the safety of our communities, not the professionals doing the job.
SB 5 contains language that is in no way designed to help solve Ohio’s revenue shortfall, but only breaks the backs of working, middle class people. The governor and the other elected officials do not care about your safety, the quality of the education that our children receive or for your rights. They talk about shared sacrifice, yet they exempted themselves from the provisions of this bill and to add insult to injury, gave their staffers five-figure pay raises and bonuses. And they want to destroy the private sector next.
Public employees have proven time and again their willingness to solve the financial problems of our communities while at the same time ensuring that quality service remains. Please stand with your police officers and fire fighters. Voting no on Issue 2 will keep help protect you and your family.
Sgt. T.J. Assion is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, which represents Mahoning County deputies. Hew wrote this on behalf of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.