That police officers and firefighters in Akron are the only city employees to get two pay raises this year points again in a persuasive way to the need to revise the state’s collective bargaining law for public workers. While other city unions agreed to single pay boosts for 2012, their leaders taking into account the city’s financial difficulties, police officers and firefighters took advantage of the binding arbitration process.
To be sure, police officers and firefighters have made concessions; what’s more, arbitration is essential given legal prohibitions against safety forces going on strike. Still, as Mayor Don Plusquellic correctly noted, something is unbalanced about a system that puts so much power over labor costs in the hands of unelected arbitrators. In the long run, it is the elected leaders of cities, the mayors and city council members, who are responsible for raising revenues and managing the delivery of a full range of services.
Last year, state Republican leaders went too far in passing Senate Bill 5, pushing to cripple municipal unions. The bill was subjected to a referendum, voters soundly rejecting the measure at the polls last fall, a major defeat for John Kasich and his allies in the legislature.
The governor (who once talked about eliminating binding arbitration entirely) now is silent on the issue of making adjustments to Ohio’s collective bargaining law. What is needed are measures giving city leaders more of a say, countering the practice in binding arbitration of an outsider merely splitting the difference. That practical step belongs on the Statehouse agenda.