We don't have to choose between emergency pay and layoffs

Posted May 15, 2020 by

OCSEA recently sent out an action to union members urging them to sign a petition demanding emergency pay for OCSEA frontline workers as negotiated in the union contract with Ohio. Two members of our union Correction family have now died after contracting COVID-19 on the job. They have made the ultimate sacrifice; their families have sacrificed; and their co-workers continue to risk their lives daily. The least Ohio could do is honor the union contract and give workers what they deserve during this emergency.

But some members, particularly those in administrative agencies, may be asking, if frontline workers get additional pay during this economic crisis, could that mean the abolishment of my job? We understand this as a concern, especially as members face economic uncertainty. Please know, the State of Ohio does NOT have to make a choice between emergency pay to frontline workers AND layoffs! 

Emergency Pay was agreed to many years ago under Article 13 of the OCSEA union contract. Emergency Pay would come out of the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, a dedicated, separate fund set up to allow Ohio to continue short term operations when emergencies hit, like this one. The Rainy-Day Fund has an unprecedented balance of $2.7 billion. Emergency pay, to date, would only require 1 percent of that fund.

This fund has nothing to do with state payroll, which only makes up 7 percent of the Ohio budget.

OCSEA’s position is that Ohio needs to tap the Rainy Day Fund NOW for its agreed obligation to frontline workers. And, the union will continue to go to the mat over ANY talk of cuts to any OCSEA members, especially while the State continues to waste billions on exempt positions; expensive, wasteful private contracts; and other unnecessary costs that harm frontline and essential public employees, including those working from home to keep Ohio afloat.

OCSEA has already communicated with the State about areas of spending that can be shifted to protect jobs and continue operations. Frankly, the State is wasting a lot of money on non-essentials that could be easily shifted to maintain jobs and services. The State Legislature recently gave themselves and nearly every elected official at the State, County, and Township levels a 7 percent pay increase plus dedicated pay increases every year through 2028. The State privatization budget has ballooned to twice its size even as state investigators reported that state workers do the same work for less and that those contracts frequently violate bidding rules and often go to state officials’ associates.

No matter what state managers may begin telling union employees, Ohio DOES NOT have to choose between our frontline workers and layoffs. This is no more than a diversionary tactic that puts worker against worker. It is time for union workers to stand unified. Public employee union members are doing their part for Ohio during this crisis and have historically sacrificed with often nothing in return. It’s time that Ohio do what’s right for public workers––the heroes of COVID-19.

Take action! Tell Ohio to enact the union-negotiated emergency pay now!