Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
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Politics

House budget targets unions, state professors

Language included in the Ohio House Republicans’ version of the state budget bill would bar many public university professors from collective bargaining, union officials said.

The language closely mirrors a section of the controversial 2011 Senate Bill 5, which weakened collective bargaining for public employee unions and was repealed by a voter referendum.

If passed, the Republican budget language would designate as managers professors who participate in policy decision-making such as recommending colleagues for promotion or selecting textbooks, a common practice of most professors.

John McNay, president of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, said that most of that work is done on a volunteer basis by faculty and that they are advisory roles, not that of decision-makers.

If faculty ran things, “the highest paid employee wouldn’t be the football coach,” he said.

The language attempts to apply a similar standard on public university professors as is used for faculty at private universities. A 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in National Labor Relations Board vs. Yeshiva University effectively exempted private college and university faculty from collective bargaining because they were considered managers when they develop and implement policy.

David Jackson, president of the Bowling Green State University Faculty Association, said that provision would preclude nearly every professor at BGSU from joining a union.

“Faculty that do anything in Faculty Senate, curriculum development, evaluating their department chair or college dean, basically any form of service would be defined as managers and therefore not permitted collective bargaining,” he said.

Mr. Jackson said the Yeshiva decision was based on a misperception faculty members’ roles; they don’t make decisions, just give advice. He compared a professor’s decision-making role to a mail carrier who decides which path to take on his delivery route.

“That does not make him a manager,” he said.

Mr. McNay said that faculty members would be forced to decide between performing common services in a university community and joining a union. The provisions could substantially effect tenure decisions, he said, since service often plays a key role alongside research and teaching.

“They are trying to eliminate our unions,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal of this.”

Harvey Wolff, president of the University of Toledo AAUP, said it’s unclear whether professors would have a choice in deciding whether to join a union or perform common university services.

“This whole thing is obviously aimed at doing away with a faculty union or having them not participate in what has been considered faculty input,” he said.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio — which represents 14 public university presidents that in 2011 pushed to include the provisions in SB5 — was not involved in its inclusion this year in the House budget.

“We were not aware of it until after it was included in the substitute version of the bill,” said Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council.

The IUC presidents have not met since the language was included, so the council is now neutral on its inclusion in the bill, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. McNay was set to give testimony Thursday before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee. Rep. Ryan Smith (R., Gallipolis), chairman of the committee, did not return a phone message left at his office Thursday.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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