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Ohio GOP sends a stealth death notice to public college teachers unions

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Headlined to H3 4/4/11

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

An obscure clause that was slipped into Ohio's infamous anti-union Senate Bill 5 may spell the end of collective bargaining for the state's public college teachers.

SB-5 was passed in the face of bitter controversy and mass public demonstrations at the state capitol in Columbus. It was signed into law Thursday, March 31, by Ohio's new extreme right-wing Governor John Kasich.

But little attention has been paid to the following clause on page 272, which reads:

"With respect to members of a faculty of a state institution of higher education, any faculty who, individually or through a faculty senate or like organization, participate in the governance of the institution, are involved in personnel decisions, selection or review of administrators, planning and use of physical resources, budget preparation, and determination of educational policies related to admissions, curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction and research are management level employees."

Photograph by Bob Studzinski

The obvious intent of this language is to bar public college faculty members from belonging to a union or participating in collective bargaining. By definition, "management level employees" are not allowed to unionize or strike.

But all faculty members participate in drawing up curricula. They also, as a matter of course, help choose fellow teachers and administrators, help govern their schools and the like.

So the practical intent of this language is to bar Ohio's public college teachers from unionizing at all by renaming their role.

As Darrell Minor puts it: "We are now management as soon as this law takes effect and we have no right to collect bargaining." Minor is a mathematics professor at Columbus State Community College. He heads the Columbus State Educational Association, the faculty union, at a school whose enrollment now numbers around 31,000.

The faculty's new status as "management" may also call into question the legal standing of tenure.

SB-5 is slated to become official law within 90 days. Legal challenges are already in the works. The nullification process by referendum has also begun.

But along the way, the state's college teachers may find themselves without tenure or a union.

Reprinted from The Free Press.
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