That bill would have eliminated layoff procedures from being part of union contracts, giving managers the authority to fire any worker, regardless of seniority. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake says it’s been 40 years since Iowa lawmakers have taken a “thoughtful look” at collective bargaining rights in Iowa.
“Over the years, every time we’ve created a new mandate, every time a contract is reviewed, it is one more finger on the scale that tilts it,” Upmeyer says. “…What we’d like to do is rebalance this a little bit.”
The 2011 bill that cleared the Republican-led House also would have required state workers to pay more for the cost of their health care. This year, Governor Branstad has suggested a statewide health care pool for all union contracts, including contracts for local police and teachers. Upmeyer says Branstad “raised a good point” and that’s an “option” being discussed, but Upmeyer is indicating Republican legislators do not intend to make that move mandatory.
“We recognize there are differences around the state in pools where they are self-insured, that sort of thing,” Upmeyer says. “But if you have an option, that could also be an opportunity where you could save some dollars that could be reinvested back in the city, county, school, state — whichever entity it is.”
In addition, Upmeyer is suggesting the GOP will pursue changes in what arbitrators may consider when union representatives and management cannot agree.
“One of the places that we see the scale getting tipped the most, perhaps, is in arbitration,” Upmeyer says.
Under current law, arbitrators must either choose the final offer from the state or the final offer from the union. Upmeyer says arbitrators do not take into account whether the state or local government can afford the contract.
“It sort of turns taxpayers into an ATM machine and rebalancing that a little differently I think would create a little more fairness in the system,” Upmeyer says.
Upmeyer says Republicans also want to give arbitrators the authority to compare public-sector wages with wages in the private sector when ruling on government employee contracts. Upmeyer made her comments today during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that will air tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.
Unions protested the collective bargaining changes Upmeyer and other Republicans sought in 2011 and the bill was blocked by Democrats in the Iowa Senate. This year, though, Republicans are in total control of the legislative branch and the state’s Republican governor is receptive to these proposals.
Unions in Iowa have already begun to lobby against changing Iowa’s collective bargaining law. During a January 5th news conference, a teacher from Cedar Rapids accused Republicans of targeting unions because organized labor has traditionally supported Democrats.