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Ohio Senate Passes Bill Blocking Faculty Unions

The Ohio Senate last week passed a bill that, in addition to significantly scaling back all state employees' collective bargaining rights, denies most public college faculty members the right to engage in any collective bargaining whatsoever, by classifying them as managers and therefore ineligible for union representation.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education's Peter Schmidt explains, the bill defines as "management-level employees" all faculty members who engage in any of several activities generally considered to be routine for most tenured and tenure-track professors. "Those activities include participating in institutional governance or personnel decisions, selecting or reviewing administrators, preparing budgets, determining how physical resources are used, and setting educational policies 'related to admissions, curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction and research,'" Schmidt writes.

That means that any professor at a college or university with a faculty senate would be blocked from collective bargaining, Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik reports. "'This would basically exclude every faculty member except someone exiled to Mars,' said Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, which has 11 locals with contracts at the state's public colleges and universities," Jaschik writes.

According to The Washington Post's Amy Gardner, the GOP-sponsored bill passed the Senate 17 to 16 while protestors gathered in opposition on the grounds of the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. "As the roll call finished, dozens of union supporters in the Senate gallery chanted 'Shame! Shame! Shame!' Screeches and shouts echoed down the corridors of the Statehouse, where hundreds of opponents of the bill had gathered for the day's events," Gardner writes. "The bill next goes to the House, where it is expected to pass, and then to the desk of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to sign it."

Still, as Bloomberg's Mark Niquette notes, Ohio voters may well be given the final say. "If the Legislature passes the measure in its current form, there will be a move to repeal it, Democratic Senator Joe Schiavoni said," Niquette writes. "To place the issue on a statewide ballot and put the law on hold until then, petition forms with more than 231,000 valid signatures of registered voters must be collected by July 6, according to the Ohio secretary of state's office. The number of signatures required is 6 percent of the total vote cast for governor last year."