Worker Freedom in the Hawkeye State
By Olivia Grady
On February 7, 2017, Iowa Republican legislators revealed that they want to reform Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public employees: Republican Representative Dave Deyoe, Chair of the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, introduced HSB 84. A similar bill was filed in the Senate.
The bill limits the subjects that unions can bargain collectively on and changes firing procedures. It also changes the rules for union certification elections, including changing the percentage of employees needed who support the union from 10 percent to 30 percent. The union only wins if a majority of the public employees in the bargaining unit vote for the union, not a majority of those who vote. The bill further forces unions to recertify every time before a contract expires. Employers will no longer automatically deduct dues from paychecks, and seniority will no longer be a policy. Public safety officers, like fire fighters, are exempt.
This bill is similar to Republican Governor Scott Walker’s famous pro-worker bill.
On March 11, 2011, Walker signed into law Wisconsin Act 10 or the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, a bill that he had proposed.
It was ground breaking for worker freedom. The legislation limited collective bargaining for most public employees to wages, and workers had to vote annually to keep the union. Employers further couldn’t collect dues, and workers in the bargaining unit were not required to pay dues. Law enforcement and fire fighters were exempt.
Democrat Senators attempted to fight the passage of the bill by traveling to Illinois so that there wouldn’t be the required quorum to pass the bill. Republicans were finally able to bypass the quorum requirement by removing parts of the bill related to money.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed suits arguing the bill was unconstitutionally passed. On March 18, 2011, Judge Maryann Sumi stopped the bill from becoming law because it was passed without 24 hours notice for the public. The Secretary of State, however, published the law, and Judge Sumi reiterated her position. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled her though on June 14, 2011. On January 18, 2013, a federal court of appeals overturned a federal court’s decision that had found parts of the bill (the automatic collection of dues and the annual recertification) unconstitutional. On July 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court once again upheld Act 10, this time after the budget repair bill inclusion of county, city and school officials was challenged.
Act 10 has saved the state of Wisconsin millions of dollars, over $100 million in just the schools alone.
Because of Wisconsin’s success, Iowa legislators believe a similar bill in Iowa would promote liberty and prosperity.
Of course, unions are trying to fight back against the Iowa bill. After the Iowa bill was introduced, union members held a protest in the statehouse.
A vote in both chambers could be held next week.
Center for Worker Freedom congratulates Iowa Republican legislators for courageously supporting public workers and trying to reform collective bargaining laws.