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Some feeling ‘vilified’ and ignored, Ohio vets now back serving public brace for losses if SB5 stands

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MahurinEcon_Thumb1_2622.jpg

Ohio voters in 2009 approved by an overwhelming margin a ballot measure that allowed the state to borrow and spend $200 million on bonuses to Buckeye State veterans of the of the Persian Gulf War and the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those same voters will now decide the fate of collective-bargaining rights for many of those very same veterans in a Nov. 8 statewide referendum, Issue 2, challenging a law passed earlier this year that strips virtually all negotiating powers from public employees.

If the law, Senate Bill 5, is not repealed, Ohio’s veterans in public service could be impacted to a much greater degree than the average teacher, firefighter or police officer, as The American Independent previously reported.

“For public employees that are also veterans, this is just like a double-whammy against them,” said Shelli Jackson, a veteran and former music teacher now serving as a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association.

SB5 could have a major impact on the pay, benefits and job security of veterans in the public sector, even more so than their colleagues without military experience.

The legislation ends the long-running practice of awarding veterans entering the teaching profession with a slight entry-level pay increase for years served in active duty. The form of veteran’s preference is designed to bring the pay scale of teachers that fought for their country in parity with those that did not serve and could, in the meantime, accumulate experience in the classroom.

“The average veteran isn’t your typical entry-level teacher. They have families for the most part. So they need that additional compensation, I think, to establish themselves,” said Jackson.

If the bill stands after Nov. 8 and collective-bargaining rights are eroded, opponents are concerned those public sector union members that also serve in the Ohio National Guard of Reserves could lose pay, or even their jobs, if deployed.

With virtually all bargaining powers stripped, public-sector unions may not be able to guarantee members that could be deployed overseas will continue to receive the difference in pay from their civilian job and military job.

“Unfortunately the military pay doesn’t always reflect what they are making in their communities,” said Air Force veteran Mike Weinman, a former Columbus police officer now serving as the director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. “So that’s a hardship on those individuals when they can’t have that differential pay.”

The bill also mandates that pay raises be based on merit, and are no longer determined by seniority.

“If you’re deployed for a year and you’re a Cleveland police officer, you’re not making any arrests in the city of Cleveland that year,” said Weinman. “How exactly are they going to determine merit pay if people are deployed overseas?”

Those serving their country could also be top targets when budgets get tight and cuts are made. Currently, most of Ohio’s public-sector unions operate under a “last in, first out” policy when it comes time to determine layoffs. Under SB5, that, too, would change to a system based on merit.

“I could really see veterans and those that are service members that are out on deployment to be targets as the first ones to be cut and lose their job,” said Jackson.

It’s unclear exactly how many of Ohio’s 350,000-plus public-sector workers have military backgrounds. But Weinman said at least 30 of his colleagues in the Columbus Police Department were veterans.

He believes that fewer veterans will decide to enter public service if SB5 is not repealed.

“I wanted to continue to serve in whatever capacity,” he said. “That’s what a lot of veterans do. But when you find yourself being vilified by these extremist politicians just because you are a public worker, I could imagine some people do take that into consideration when deciding whether to continue serving the community.”

Weinman, who is a registered Republican, said few Ohioans are aware of the how the legislation not a single Democrat voted for will affect the state’s veterans. Those that do are not sure how Ohio went from honoring its veterans for their service to their country with cash bonuses to being on the verge of stripping their basic collective-bargaining rights.

“Its part of this extremist political agenda,” he said. “There seems to be a disconnect between these extremist politicians and respect for men and women in uniform.”

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