Unions facing fierce attack in GOP-led state legislatures

WHO’S THAT SHAKING THE GOVERNOR’S HAND? Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation Feb. 17 that ends all meaningful collective barganing rights for public employees. The private signing ceremony was closed to the press but not to Drew Klein, above. Klein is state director of the anti-union group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

By Don McIntosh

Is Iowa the next Wisconsin? Under Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin famously stripped public employees of all meaningful union rights in a draconian piece of 2010 legislation. Now Iowa has passed a very similar law. House File 291 ends for all intents and purposes, the collective bargaining rights of 184,000 public employees.

Under the new law, public employee unions will only be allowed to negotiate base wages, nothing else, and they can never bargain increases that are more than inflation. Health insurance, vacation time, evaluation procedures, seniority-related benefits … none of those things can be part of union contracts going forward. And public-employee unions would be barred from automatically deducting union dues and political contributions from members’ checks. Finally, public employees will be required to re-certify that they want to be in a union with each new contract, and to continue to be union-represented, an outright majority of workers in a bargaining unit would have to vote for the union, not just a majority of those who show up to vote.

In case there was any doubt as to who inspired the union-killing legislation, on Feb. 13, Scott Walker delivered a pep talk to 29 Iowa Senate Republicans in a 10-minute Skype conference call.

The bill exempted police and firefighters from some of the changes, but many of them showed up in uniform and rallied alongside the hundreds of protesters who flooded the Capitol rotunda in a show of opposition. More than 1,100 people registered to speak in opposition to the bill, while only about two dozen registered in support.

On Feb. 16 the bill passed the Iowa House 53 to 47 and the Iowa Senate 29-21. Not a single Democrat voted in favor, though six Republicans voted against it. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed it into law the very next day, and the law takes effect immediately.

The signing took place in a private ceremony, closed to the press, but open to the head of Iowa chapter of a group that lobbied for the bill — Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

Having all-but-destroyed public employee union rights that have been in place since 1974, Gov. Branstad isn’t planning to stick around: He’s  President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to China.

AFSCME, which represents 40,000 Iowa public employees, has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the law.


‘Right-to-work’ defeated in New Hampshire

This year’s rising tide of “right-to-work” laws stopped when it reached New Hampshire. Kentucky and Missouri passed the anti-union laws, which bar any requirement to pay union dues. But the effort failed in New Hampshire for the second time in two years. It passed the Senate, but failed 200-177 in the state’s massive House of Representatives. Every Democrat voted against it, and so did 32 Republicans. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu had declared the legislation a priority.

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