Adopting Ohio Senate Bill 5: The Role of the Public University Presidents

Source: Sheldon Gelman, Albany Law Review, Volume 75 Issue 1, 2011/2012

In March 2011 the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill Five (―S.B. 5‖), a measure that would have banned collective bargaining by public university faculty members and severely limited bargaining rights for other public employees. Ohio voters decisively rejected S.B. 5 in a referendum election eight months later, preventing it from taking effect. In response to public records requests I have received thousands of pages of documents that describe the role of public university presidents in connection with S.B. 5. Based on this newly available information, this article examines the actions, and analyzes the arguments, of senior university officials.

Together with similar collective bargaining legislation in Wisconsin, S.B. 5 triggered a national debate about labor policy and the role of the middle class in American life. Besides those general concerns, however, the events hold special significance for our understanding of universities. S.B. 5 singled out university faculty for the most stringent treatment of any group and it did so via a provision–known as the ―Yeshiva amendment‖–that Ohio’s public university presidents drafted and promoted in secret….

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