Ohio labor unions fight back against higher education bill banning strikes

By: - May 31, 2023 4:50 am
A university professor addressing his students during a lecture. Getty Images.

A university professor addressing his students during a lecture. Getty Images.

Labor unions are fighting back against a controversial higher education bill in the Ohio Senate that would ban public university employees from striking. This isn’t the first fight, either.

Nearly 700,000 people in Ohio are part of unions or related associations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. With that, Ohioans are continuing to unionize faster than the national average.

If a corporation isn’t playing ball, a union’s greatest tool to getting a fair contract is a strike, or the threat of one.

“Even having the possibility of a threat out there helps negotiations, helps people come to the table and work together to try to prevent it,” said Melissa Cropper, president. of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

But under Senate Bill 83, university employees, faculty and staff, would be banned from striking — making it a fireable offense.

Fast facts

S.B. 83 focuses on what GOP calls “free speech,” banning public universities in Ohio from having “bias” in the classroom and limiting what “controversial topics” can and can’t be taught.

The bill bans:

  • “bias” in classrooms
  • mandatory diversity training
  • labor strikes
  • boycotts or disinvestments

The bill requires:

  • American history course
  • public syllabuses and teacher information online
  • tenure evaluations based on if the educator showed bias or taught with bias — students will also evaluate
  • rewrite of mission statements to include that educators teach so students can reach their “own conclusions”

Click here to read more details about the bill.


Cropper and dozens of other unions are speaking out.

“It just gives too much weight to management’s side to be able to do what they want to do or not come to the table with good proposals,” she said.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) wants to put a stop to this.

“To hold the students hostage to getting the instruction that they have paid for in advance of the semester just seems to me [as] not putting the students first,” Cirino said.

Strikes paying families at the whim of educators and disadvantaged students just trying to learn, he added.

“We have opportunities to negotiate on other bases without having to put the students’ right to get the instruction they paid for any way at risk,” the Republican said.

This brings back bad memories for Cropper.

“It’s extremely reminiscent of Senate Bill 5,” she said.

Anti-union history

Back in 2011, Republican lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5 – which ended or limited the rights of Ohio employees to collectively bargain for fair wages and safe work conditions.

It would have limited public employees from collectively bargaining for wages, health insurance and pensions. It banned all striking. It also prevented unions from charging fair share dues for employees who opted out.

Through a citizen-led effort, it was overwhelmingly repealed — which Cropper said shows Ohio lawmakers shouldn’t be messing with the working class.

“You’re not going to take away this right from us,” she said.

Despite having about 500 pieces of testimony against it, and only 10 for it, the bill has passed the Senate and is being heard in the House.

The unions across Ohio were most recently involved in the fight against Senate Joint Resolution 2, now Issue 1. Read about that by clicking here.

This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.