The Agenda

Josh Barro on the Quirks of Ohio’s Collective Bargaining Reform

As Josh explains, Ohio hasn’t quite ended collective bargaining for public employees. But health and retirement benefits will no longer be a part of labor negotiations in the state, and binding arbitration has been abolished:


This gives municipalities a route to effectively opt out of collective bargaining if they don’t wish to participate–they can just keep saying “no” to union proposals and then enact their own plan. A professor quoted in the Times story says, “That’s not collective bargaining. I’d call it collective begging. It’s a conversation that ends whenever an employer decides that it ends.”

Really, he’s right. And since I oppose collective bargaining in the public sector, that’s fine with me. But it would be preferable for states to simply abolish collective bargaining altogether for government workers, as is the case in Virginia, or at least allow municipalities to decide whether to bargain or not. Retaining what is essentially a sham bargaining process is likely to create the impression that collective bargaining isn’t working as it’s supposed to, and therefore to undermine the reform over the long term.

One wonders why Gov. Kasich and his allies chose to go this route. It seems unlikely that it reduced the intensity of the political opposition. It’s possible that the governor concluded that there might be a useful place for unions to serve as a voice for employees, even in the absence of substantial bargaining power. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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