Lawmaker removes anti-striking provision from controversial Ohio higher ed overhaul bill

By: - November 2, 2023 5:00 am

Jamie Pipik from the University of Akron holds up a sign during a protest led by the Ohio Student Association in opposition to Senate Bill 83, June 14, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

In order to get the Ohio House to pass a controversial bill to overhaul the higher education system, the Republican bill sponsor has removed a provision that would prevent employees from being able to strike. However, it was replaced with a policy that education advocates say would decimate tenure.

State Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) told News 5 exclusively that he feels this compromise will get the legislation past the finish line.

“It became clear that that was going to be an impediment in the House and we have to be realistic,” Cirino said. “Sometimes you don’t get everything you want.”

Senate Bill 83 would completely change the college system. This bill focuses on what some Republicans consider “free speech” by banning public universities in Ohio from having “bias” in the classroom and limiting what “controversial topics” can be taught.

The bill also prevented all university employees from being able to strike, making it a fireable offense.

After immense protest, Cirino changed it to just full-time faculty.

That wasn’t enough, according to the Republican. He decided to fully remove the anti-striking provision.

“I wouldn’t call it a win, especially given the fact that the bill still limits collective bargaining in a number of other areas including bargaining over,” said Ohio Education Association’s Scott DiMauro.

Although this helps unionizing efforts, DiMauro is worried about the newest version — which has a provision impacting retrenchment. It would prevent unions from negotiating on tenure, and it would allow universities to fire tenured professors for a broad list of reasons. The reasons are reduction in student population or overall funding, change to institutional missions or programs, other fiscal pressures or emergencies facing the institution.

“Could this bill kill tenure as we know it?” Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau asked DiMauro.

“I think the bill overall certainly has a chilling impact on professors and on people that work in our institutions of higher education,” he responded.

Cirino argued against this, saying this is how business works: if someone isn’t performing well, or if budget cuts come in, universities should be allowed to find someone else to do the job.

“I think tenure is a good thing,” the lawmaker said. “What I am for is evaluating tenured professors on a periodic basis.”

The bill will continue to be heard in the upcoming months, but it is unclear if the changes were enough to get through committee or the House.

Cirino held a symposium in late Oct. with public university trustees, and it was there that the lawmaker told reporters that the bill had been updated once again.

When News 5 asked House Speaker Jason Stephens about the likelihood of passage, he denied the legislation was moving forward in the near future.

“I don’t think it’s ready to,” the speaker said. “There are still some things, I think, that needs to work itself through the process.”

The Senate tried to put S.B. 83 into the operating budget, but the House was very adamantly against it — and took it out.

This article was originally published on 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.