The top leader in the Iowa Senate says Democrats in the legislature will advance four pieces of legislation that’ve been long sought by unions. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says the final details aren’t set, but all four bills are "live rounds" that have a good chance of becoming law.
"Iowa for 60 years has pursued a weak-unions, low-wage, low-skill strategy towards economic development and it has not created wealth in this state," Gronstal says, "and it has not created good-paying jobs."
Last year Democrats in the legislature passed a bill which would have broadened the topics union employees in governments at the state, county and city level could bring up during contract negotiations, but Governor Chet Culver, a fellow Democrat, vetoed it. Gronstal suggests Culver and Democratic legislators have a better working relationship this year. "We have talked to the governor repeatedly. We have had better communication. We have done a great job of on-going communication with the governor on all of these issues."
The other union-related bills Gronstal indicates will advance this year include a bill which would grant workers the right to choose their own doctor if they’re injured on the job as well as legislation which would require non-union workers to pay a fee if the union provides certain services that benefit the worker. Many Republicans and business groups object to the bills, arguing the proposals would hurt iowa’s economy.
Gronstal shoots back. "If you want to keep labor weak, the kinds of jobs you’re going to end up with are the kinds of jobs you had at Postville with AgriProcessors," Gronstal says. "…If that’s Iowa’s economic future, I think it’s a pretty sad future and no wonder our kids are leaving this state."
Gronstal made his comments this morning during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, "Iowa Press," which airs this evening at 7:30. During the show, Gronstal made this closing comment about unions. "Tomorrow’s Saturday," Gronstal said. "Everybody has their weekend, thanks to organized labor."
The fourth bill under consideration would establish a "prevailing wage" for construction workers and others emplioyed on building projects financed by Iowa cities, counties and school districts as well as the state. During an appearance at the Iowa Building Trades annual convention yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge said she and Chet Culver support it.
Judge likened a prevailing wage to a "living wage."
The legislation would calculate a prevailing wage in each Iowa county, based on the hourly wages, benefits and overtime pay the majority of workers in the county’s largest city are paid.