The Iowa Senate holds a hearing on changes in the collective bargaining law.

The Republican sheriff from a northwest Iowa county and a former aide to Governor Terry Branstad were among a host of speakers urging state senators to shelve a bill that changes Iowa’s collective bargaining law.

Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew began his remarks during a senate hearing this afternoon by identifying himself as a Republican. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 36 years, most of that time on the other side — not management,” Drew said. “I have seen collective bargaining work. Collective bargaining is a wonderful thing.”

Critics say the bill will only allow unions to negotiate over the base wages of workers. Republicans plan to keep current negotiating rules in place for Iowa police and fire fighters, but the Woodbury County Sheriff said about half his employees would only be allowed to negotiate about their base pay. Drew told senators he rejects their attemtp to “shred apart” union workers.

“We stand as one. It is important to stand together because what you may take or give us or let us stay in — the firefighters and public safety — two years from now we may be out,” Drew said. “So we stand as one for the right reason, because collective bargaining and Chapter 20 works.”

Teamsters Union member John Thomas is a policeman in Mitchellville. He said Republicans in the legislature are forcing “collective begging” on public employees.

“Half of the law enforcement folks I work with are Republicans and we voted for Republicans because of conservative values, but we didn’t vote for Republicans to get stabbed in the back and attacked while we’re trying to dodge cars and bullets,” he said, to cheers and applause.

During the 1990s, Jody Butler of Ankeny served nearly five years as Governor Branstad’s education policy advisor. She testified against the bill Branstad and his fellow Republicans seek.

“You will be setting us back, demoralizing the profession of teaching, probably doing irreparable harm,” Butler told senators, “and that’s a great disappointment.”

Butler said it’s ironic she spent all that time “working for the governor” to improve schools, only to see that progress “stripped away.”

“My step-daughter, my son-in-law are teachers in Marengo, in Iowa Valley. They used to vote Republicans, but I know now, given this, that will never happen again,” Butler said. “The teachers union consists of Democrats, Republicans and ‘no parties’ just like the rest of the state of Iowa. Folks, this is really, really divisive.”

The House Labor Committee will take up the bill later this afternoon at 3 p.m. and it’s expected to pass on a party-line vote.