Friday, May 13, 2011

Give Cops and Firefighters the Right to Strike


            Policemen and firefighters should have the right to strike.


            Especially now.


            Sound Radical?  It is.


            But in the light of recent changes to public employee law in Ohio, it's only fair.


            As a former municipal official, I've been observing the fracas  over collective bargaining in Columbus.


            Here's the background.


            Years ago, Ohio law was overhauled to create the SERB (State Employee Relations Board) Statute.


            This Ohio Revised Code provision created an independent hearing officer to make a binding determination deciding labor contract questions and pay disputes between cities and safety personnel.


            City governments hate this law because they were stuck with the mandatory binding decision of this hearing officer.  Even if they were ordered to pay raises they couldn't afford.


            Of course, unions were also stuck, forced to accept  what may have been an unfair decision regarding pay scale or employee contribution for health care.


            What no one is talking about is the reason this system was created.


            It was created because safety forces do not have the legal right to strike.


            This leverage of the threat of striking is at the core of labor rights.


            Without the right to strike, the union has no leverage and might as well not exist.


            You can't call it collective bargaining if you strip unions of their only truly meaningful bargaining tool:  The right to strike. 


            Over in Europe, Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement was based on this most basic theory:  you don't have to pay us as we demand, but we also may choose to walk.


            This movement, along with a little help from a Polish Pope now on his way to sainthood, eventually played a major role in the downfall of the Soviet Communist empire.


            Our public officials in Columbus have missed this completely.


            They took away the system designed to balance the scales in light of a public employee's inability to strike.


            So you see, I understand the concerns of cities facing a budget crunch.


            However, if you are going to eliminate laws created because striking is illegal, you must give that tool back to the worker.


            You must let them have the only meaningful ace in the hand dealt them in the poker game of labor negotiations.


            It's not a fair game when the dealer reserves the aces for only one side.


            That's what happened in Columbus.  They tried to fix the SERB Law to protect the public coffers, but forgot about the delicate balance of fairness to workers.


            The right to strike is a human right.  Just ask Lech  Walesa and a bunch of brave Polish workers.


            Give it back Columbus, give it back. 



David M. Lynch

1 comment:

  1. I agree completely. As of Jan of 2010, the Supreme Court recognizes money as free speech protected by the First Amendment & permits corporations to contribute unlimited funds to political campaigns.

    Why is it so hard to see that negotiating a contract IS speech, that striking IS an expression of speech?