Legislation stripped public workers of rights

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On Thursday, the Republicans now running our state government in Des Moines dismantled a piece of Iowa collective bargaining that has been on the books for more than 40 years. The Iowa Employment Relations Act (Chapter 20) has proved repeatedly to be a valuable law to all Iowans and our workers during those four decades.

On Feb. 2, House Study Bill 84 and Senate File 213 were proposed by Republicans at the Iowa House and Senate. These bills are said to have been written to save tax dollars and force public sector employees statewide to pay more in health insurance. At least this is what the governor and Republican representatives would have you believe.

HSB 84 (HB 291) and SF 213 were intended to strip public sector employees of their rights as a bargaining unit and destroy labor unions in Iowa — nothing more, nothing less.

Portions of the bills take away any negotiating ability on current mandatory subjects other than wages. This means workers will not have a voice nor vote when it comes to subjects such as safety, insurance, overtime pay, hours, vacation, holidays, seniority, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction and grievance procedures.

Dues checkoff has been eliminated. This means that if I want my union dues to automatically come out of my paycheck, I cannot do that, and it cannot be negotiated.

Recertification elections must be held a year in advance of a contract’s end date. This means that an entire unit must vote, and more than 50 percent vote for certification to be represented by a union every contract year. Guess who pays for these elections? The workers do because they are the union. An employee who doesn’t vote will be considered a “no” vote.

Imagine if every election in the United States had this language in the law. If you didn’t vote the government decided who or what you voted for. Is this democracy?

Any legislator who supported these bills should be ashamed and should personally apologize to the 180,000 public sector employees and their families. They should apologize to our children for attacking our working families like this.

The passage of these bills make it difficult to find and retain qualified workers in every public sector job.

The Republicans who supported these bills are banking on the idea that you as voters in Iowa will not remember that they did this to you when they are up for re-election. Do not allow this to happen; show them what democracy means and vote them out.

Elections have consequences, but so should supporting bad policy.

• Rick Moyle is executive director of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council AFL-CIO

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