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Dozens of unions in Ohio coming together to oppose controversial higher education bill

Students protest higher ed bill at Ohio Statehouse on June 14, 2023
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Students protest higher ed bill at Ohio Statehouse on June 14, 2023

A coalition of unions known as "We Are Ohio," along with 73 additional unions sent a letter to Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), asking him and other Republicans to strike down a higher education bill they say has anti-union provisions.

The letter from the unions says the bill, which would make sweeping changes at Ohio’s public colleges and universities, contains provisions that attack unionized workers.

Sara Kilpatrick, Executive Director for the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, said the bill would not only prevent some unionized faculty and staff from striking, but would also remove collective bargaining rights in some key areas.

“Those subjects (affected would be) workload, evaluations, retrenchment and tenure," Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick said Ohioans spoke loud and clear when they repealed Senate Bill 5, a measure limiting collective bargaining rights of public employees that passed in 2011 and was subsequently repealed by a two-to-one margin.

“The question about public workers' union rights was asked and answered when Senate Bill 5 was repealed in 2011. And there’s no need to go down this road again," Kilpatrick said.

Senate Bill 83 went through some changes before passing the Ohio Senate in May. The bill has always contained some provisions to prevent faculty at state colleges from striking. But it is more comprehensive. The bill was initially written to prevent colleges from participating in programs with Chinese schools, would eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training and prevent the teaching of what some call "woke" content on race or gender.

Some opponents testified that language could have prohibited single sex dorms, Black fraternities and some team sports. And opponents have also said DEI training is required to get some grants and funds for colleges.

Changes were made by Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), the bill's sponsor. He said some of that language was changed before the Senate vote to allow segregated sports teams and would no longer require universities to end relationships with Chinese institutions, though there would be limits on those relationships.

But provisions that prevent faculty and staff from striking remain in the bill that's now under consideration in the Ohio House. Kilpatrick said she wants to make sure lawmakers know unions are standing together against those provisions.

“The purpose of this letter is to show that no matter who the bill might affect, unions are united in opposition to the bill," Kilpatrick said.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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