This week's issue of CityBeat features a lengthy letter to the editor by Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls explaining why she opposes Ohio Senate Bill No. 5, which limited collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions including police and firefighters.
Qualls wrote the letter for CityBeat after we asked about her position on S.B. No. 5, amid rumors she might support it — which would place her at odds with her fellow Democrats. Rather than comment for a column, Qualls asked for space so she could more fully explain her views to the public.
In essence, while she doesn't like the binding arbitration process used in labor negotiations with police and firefighter unions, she supports collective bargaining and, thus, opposes the bill.
Also, Qualls announces in the letter that she will no longer accept public-sector union endorsements or contributions to her political campaigns. It's widely believed by many people -- but not confirmed -- that Qualls will run for mayor in 2013.
The bill was approved in amended form by the Ohio House on March 30; it was initially approved by the Ohio Senate on March 2. Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law March 31. It will take effect July 1, unless enough valid signatures are filed to force a referendum on the November ballot, which is highly likely.
The version approved allows collective bargaining for wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. It prohibits bargaining for health-care benefits, pension matters, privatization of services and workforce levels, among other items.
Rumors about Qualls' stance on Senate Bill No. 5 began after she delayed a vote on a resolution that would've placed Cincinnati City Council on record in opposition. It was introduced March 2 by Councilmen Wendell Young and Cecil Thomas, also Democrats, and referred to council's Budget and Finance Committee, which is chaired by Qualls.
But Qualls didn't place it on the committee's agenda for the subsequent three meetings, prompting concern by some supporters.
Young, who testified in Columbus against Senate Bill No. 5, said he's satisfied the resolution is being handled appropriately.
“I have consistently asked for a vote on it, but I completely respect the chair's decision not to put it on, for whatever reason,” Young said. “To me, a resolution like this isn't 'urgent city business,' but it is a critical symbolic gesture to our employees and our citizens. We are saying that we respect the rights of workers in our city, and that we, as a government, believe that we should always be acting in good faith with good intentions.
“I have no idea if that kind of stance would influence any state legislator, but it's important to me that we declare our intentions as a city,” he added. “It's still my hope that we will vote on this item at some point in the near future.”
The resolution now is scheduled for a vote April 18.