Show up to Work Stoned? No Problem for Some Ohio Public Union Employees

Part of the purpose of Ohio Senate Bill 5 is to keep local government officials from giving away the store and costing taxpayers unnecessary funds. This gets to the root of the main difference between who is negotiating with private-sector and public-sector unions.

Private-sector unions sit across the table from a for-profit business. A business has to operate on its profits or go out of business. They aren’t likely to give too much away, because they are in some way personally invested. On the other hand, public-sector unions are negotiating with elected officials. While most are good managers of the public’s money, some are not. Elected official have no personal stake at risk, no “skin in the game,” since they are negotiating with the public’s money–other people’s money. Unlike a private company, you need not have experience or success to earn that management position; you simply have to get elected. As we’ve seen only too well with President Downgrade, getting elected doesn’t make you a good leader.

Cincinnati.com did an investigation into public contracts in effect around Southwestern Ohio. What they found are some crazy provisions from an out-of-control system that is tilted towards the unions in Ohio.

Contracts approved by Cincinnati City Council include benefits that, among other things, permit many workers to draw 13 sick days a year, grant three weeks’ worth of compensatory time to public safety employees for holidays whether they work them or not, and entitle veteran police officers to nearly 10 weeks of various leaves annually.

13 sick days a year? 3 weeks of holiday pay? There’s more.

- Provisions found in public safety contracts in Hamilton County remove prior discipline from employee records after a period ranging from one to five years. This means a police officer or deputy sheriff can repeatedly engage in misconduct involving the public or co-workers, such as excessive force or sexual misconduct, and as long as enough time passes between each incident, each time it’s treated as if it never happened.

- Hamilton County public safety employees suffer no discipline the first time they test positive on the job for drugs or alcohol, as long as they willingly submit to rehabilitation.

- An Enquirer analysis this year found that, by stockpiling hundreds of hours of unused holiday, vacation and sick days, more than 900 Cincinnati employees – nearly one in five – may receive at least six months’ extra pay when they retire, costing taxpayers nearly $94 million.

One of the many needed reforms Issue 2 would enact is a cap on the payout of banked sick time and vacation time. We covered earlier how Cleveland’s schools were paying out MILLIONS in banked sick time at the same time they were forced to lay off teachers. Almost every one of us in the private sector is bound by the rule “Use ‘em or lose ‘em,” meaning we can’t save up our vacation time to use in the future, let alone turn it in for cash! Note that the legislation only limits the practice; it doesn’t outlaw it altogether. Thus, public-sector workers would still have it better than the private-sector in this regard.

Yet that doesn’t matter to the unions. Their answer to this, and nearly all fact-based arguments in favor of reform, is the same tired old cliché we’ve heard from them for months now: “Stop the attack on the middle class!”

Bringing the sometimes outrageous public union benefits a little closer back to the earth is not an attack. It’s sensible reform that restores the balance of power back to a level playing field between taxpayers and unions. Vote YES on Issue 2.

Cross-posted on Third Base Politics, an Ohio-based conservative blog. Follow @Bytor3BP on Twitter.

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