After more than an hour of heated debate, Republicans fell short in their bid to block pro-union legislation in the Iowa Senate. Senators voted 28 to 21 to allow unions representing government workers to collect a fee from non-union employees for certain services, like salary negotiations and legal representation.
Senate Republican Leader Mary Lundby of Marion warned low-paid workers would be hurt the most. "I live with a factory worker who makes $30 an hour. His $60-plus union dues don’t strap us in the slightest," Lundby says. "But you think about my lunch ladies or my bus drivers at Marion High School and you think about that $60 for them. That’s gas in the car for a month. That’s a week’s worth of groceries if they’ve cut every coupon they can find."
But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of council Bluffs says those very workers will benefit from a union made stronger by everyone paying their so-called "fair share." "To provide a little more strength to organized labor in this state that has fought for great things that we all benefit from and have benefited from all our lives," Gronstal says. Republicans and Democrats disagree over how many of the 240-thousand government workers in Iowa will be impacted. Republicans contend it could be all 165-thousand government workers in Iowa who don’t belong to a union. Democrats say it will be less than 50-thousand.
Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, says whatever the figure, the state’s Right-to-Work Law which forbids forced union membership is undermined. "Women do not get kinda-pregnant. They’re either pregnant or they’re not," Angelo says. "if you pass a ‘Fair Share’ bill, you are not a Right-to-Work state." Gronstal, the Democratic Leader in the Iowa Senate, says the state’s Right-to-Work law hasn’t exactly brought an avalanche of jobs to Iowa.
"Let’s try just a little tiny experiment for just a little while and see if maybe Iowa’s economy prospers with a little-bit-stronger unions," Gronstal says. "I think it’s worth an effort because I don’t think the last 60 years have been kind to Iowa." Minnesota and Wisconsin have so-called "Fair Share" Laws, and Gronstal says their economies are growing faster than Iowa’s. Workers in the private sector are not covered by the bill, which now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.