Some Republicans at the statehouse are wondering what, if anything, Governor Culver has promised labor leaders. Two of the state’s largest public employees unions have agreed to concessions in pay and benefits to avoid more than 500 layoffs. Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan) says the unions have been lobbying hard for changes to the state’s collective bargaining and worker compensation laws.
So far, the legislation has stalled because of opposition from conservative Democrats. Johnson says he worries Culver may have promised to sign one of the labor bills in return for the pay and benefit concessions needed to balance the budget. “I think there absolutely has to have been some discussion to this point and if not, there will be, because it has come very close,” Johnson said.
Johnson calls the union vote to save jobs “a step in the right direction” but says if it results in pro-labor legislation, the state’s business climate could suffer. “Labor unions typically do get something after giving up something,” Johnson said. “I’m just wondering if there are also negotiations going on about any of the pending labor bills that have been languishing in the legislature…much to the dismay of organized labor in the state.”
A spokesperson for the governor denied any back room deal and called Johnson’s statements “absolutely outrageous.”