Brown Hears from Teachers, Nurses, Firefighters, University Workers, and Faith Leaders on Efforts to Repeal Their Collective Bargaining Rights
COLUMBUS, OH –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) received testimony today from working Ohioans to hear their thoughts about efforts that would repeal their collective bargaining rights. Brown was joined by teachers, nurses, firefighters, university workers, and faith leaders who are willing to share sacrifice in order to address the state’s fiscal crisis but are not willing to cede their collective bargaining rights.
“Balancing our state’s budget will require shared sacrifice. State leaders should be looking at the tough budget choices ahead, rather than engaging in a political attack on collective bargaining rights of teachers, fire fighters, and police officers,” Brown said. “Let’s instead work together and address a primary cause of our state’s budget crisis: years of economic downturn and lost state revenue due in large part to trade agreements that shipped jobs overseas. Let’s pursue real reform that promotes our state’s competitiveness rather than ideological attacks aimed at dividing working people.”
There are roughly 360,000 public sector workers in Ohio represented by 3,290 collective bargaining agreements. According to the Economic Policy Institute, on an annual basis, full?time state and local workers and school employees are undercompensated by 6.0 percent in Ohio, in comparison with otherwise similar private?sector workers. Ohio’s state and local governments and school districts pay college?educated workers 25 percent less in total compensation, on average, than private employers.
Brown released a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter he plans to send to his fellow U.S. Senators urging them to join him in visiting with public employees in their states and listening to their thoughts and concerns about efforts aimed at abolishing collective bargaining.
Full Text of the letter is below.
February 24, 2011
As you are aware, pending legislation in several states would abolish collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. While we insist on shared sacrifice and all agree that states must take steps to balance budgets, it is important to remember that the efforts to repeal collective bargaining rights for fire fighters, police officers, teachers, nurses, and other dedicated public workers have little to do with the budget.
Today in Columbus, I sat down with teachers, firefighters, and university workers to hear their thoughts about legislation to repeal their collective bargaining rights. I learned that these workers understand the budget crunch states face, and have been willing to sacrifice to address this fiscal crisis. However, they are not willing to cede their collective bargaining rights, which ensure a fair process to negotiate workplace issues. Recent polling shows that a majority of Americans agree, with 61 percent of Americans opposing the repeal of collective bargaining laws.
For the middle class, stagnant wages have become the unfortunate norm for the past decade. Even before this recession, wages actually fell during the 2002-2007 economic expansion. Foreign competition and new technology are no doubt factors in this stagnation, but the decline in union membership – and absence of collective bargaining - among private sector workers has contributed to income inequality. In 2010, the union membership rate for public sector workers was 36.2 percent, substantially higher than the 6.9 percent of private workers. I fear that eliminating collective bargaining for these public workers will harm the entire middle class.
At least 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2012. But collective bargaining is not the problem. In fact, in Ohio, balanced budgets and collective bargaining have coexisted for nearly three decades. The recent footage from Madison, Columbus, and other state capitals should remind us that ending collective bargaining is not a minor adjustment in the relationship between employers and employees, but an assault on rights that are critically important to everyday Americans.
I urge you to join me in visiting with public employees in your states and listening to their thoughts and concerns about legislation to abolish collective bargaining.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.