Governor Chet Culver says he "absolutely" supports four labor-related bills pending in the legislature.
Last year, Culver — a Democrat — vetoed a bill which was backed by unions, but this past weekend the governor made phone calls to try to get the extra vote needed to pass a bill that would have set a "prevailing wage" for those who work on taxpayer-funded construction projects.
"I was asked, along with the lieutenant governor, to contact legislators and obviously we were disappointed," Culver says. "We had one legislator that was out of the state, traveling, so that’s one reason the vote was kept open. We were hoping we could get that person back." That person would be Representative Geri Huser, a Democrat from Altoona who is visiting her ailing father in Florida, but Huser has said she would vote "no" on the prevailing wage bill. The House voting machine was kept open all weekend in the hopes at least one representative would change their mind and the bill would pass.
The governor says it’s "still early" in the 2009 legislative session and that bill may yet become law. "I do believe that being 42nd in wages is not good enough," Culver says. "Hard-working carpenters and plumbers and pipefitters and those in the trades that work every day of their life to build our state and to rebuild Iowa from the floods deserve a pay increase of a couple of bucks an hour."
House Speaker Pat Murphy said Monday that Culver had given "100 percent" to try to get the prevailing wage bill passed. Earlier this afternoon, Culver indicated he plans to work on getting three other labor-related bills passed this year, too. "Absolutely," Culver said during a telephone conference call with reporters, "and I think it’s time that we move forward on some important bills that would help hard-working Iowans and we’re going to keep fighting to do that."
Two weeks ago Culver would give few clues publicly about his thoughts on the four labor-related bills, but on Friday night he issued a statement that, for the first time, made clear he would sign the prevailing wage bill into law. One of the three other bills would let Iowa workers choose their own doctor when they’re injured on the job. Another would charge non-union members a fee if they receive union services on the job. The third would expand the number of subjects union workers may bring up during contract negotiations,