Editorial: Collective bargaining gut an inexplicable move


Courtesy of Phil Blobaum

Protesters gather at the Iowa State Capitol Feb. 13 to oppose legislation restricting collective bargaining rights for union workers.

Editorial Board

This past Thursday, the Iowa House and Senate passed their highly controversial, heavily protested collective bargaining bill, which strips a variety of negotiation rights from Iowa’s public employees. Such rights include vacation time, health insurance and overtime pay. To add, the bill includes some other considerations that make it harder for employee negotiators to raise wages.

Since the 1970s, Iowa has enjoyed relative peace in its labor-management relations. This bill will serve to upset them, naturally, but there must’ve been some call for its making — right?

Interestingly enough, just hours before the bill being passed — and before it could be signed into law — more than 140 Iowa school districts, including Des Moines and Ames, raced to finalize employment contracts made impossible by the pending legislation.  

Why would they bother with such nonsense? If this bill was supposedly filling a policy need, as its Republican supporters evidently believed — not a single Democrat voted in favor, and six Republicans voted against — then shouldn’t these school boards just have waited until the bill’s signing, and then squashed their employees’ grumblings with the newfound power instilled in them by the state’s representatives?

The answer is a simple one: the bill clearly lacks the support our state’s Republicans apparently believed warranted such a lightning-fast shuffling through of the legislation through the State House and Senate. What’s more, the discomfiting — or, just as relevantly, the allegedly discomfiting — manner in which the bill was passed will serve to heighten tensions and draw bolder the Legislature’s partisan lines as our new political season really gets its engine revved up.  

Why are we so concerned with cutting back union rights for teachers and police officers and other public officials? Of all the myriad problems our state faces, why is this supposed issue even on our Legislature’s radar? There are other places cuts could be made. There are other sectors and industries in which these so-called “innovations” — as the bill’s supporters repeatedly touted it possessed — could be supplied. But instead, the Legislature chooses to defund and strip the rights of its own public employees.

Our public employees perform the most integral, oftentimes dangerous jobs that our state requires. They deserve the platform their unions provide them with, and to strip them of it on such flimsy reasoning is an inexplicable move.

Beyond just that, an apparent precedent has been set by our state’s Republican majority House and Senate. Evidently, out of a mere ideological desire to assert dominancy, more uncalled for, unneeded, imprudent legislation may soon be shuttling its way through our state’s Legislature and making its way to the governor’s desk in such bizarre fashion.