Iowa lawmakers champion bill to limit public-sector unions

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By Alex Dobuzinskis

<span class="articleLocation”>Iowa lawmakers considered legislation on
Wednesday to limit the powers of public-sector unions to
negotiate for state and local employees, restrictions similar to
those enacted in Wisconsin and Michigan despite huge protests.

Republicans in Iowa have gained an important advantage in
pushing for legislation to rein in public-sector salaries and
benefits after gaining control of the state Senate in last
November’s election. Republicans also control the state House of

Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad supports the
legislation, which if approved, would see Iowa join Wisconsin
and Michigan in imposing restrictions on public-sector unions in
the past decade. Branstad said the measure was needed to save
money for the state.

Many Southern states have long limited collective bargaining
by public-sector workers.

Union members protested the measure at the state capitol on
Tuesday, according to local media.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees has said the measure, supported by the billionaire
Koch Brothers’ political spending group Americans for
Prosperity, would gut collective bargaining rights.

Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president at the left-leaning
Economic Policy Institute, said the measure was in line with
efforts by conservative lawmakers to overrule minimum-wage
increases adopted by cities and push for lower wages for
construction workers on state projects.

The Iowa measure would lift mandates that require the state
and local governments to negotiate with public-sector unions on
how much employees receive in health benefits, according to a
text of the legislation.

Instead, mandated negotiations would center on wages. Public
safety employees, including police and firefighters, would be
exempted from those provisions.

The legislation also would make it easier to dismiss certain
state and local employees, including teachers, who are deemed by
their supervisors to be poor performers.

The measure was heard by House and Senate subcommittees on
Wednesday, according to the legislature’s website. It was not
immediately clear when the state House and Senate might vote on
the measure.

Branstad told a news conference on Tuesday that state
employees covered by public-sector unions typically pay $20 a
month for their health coverage, leaving taxpayers on the hook
for over $22,000.

“This is wrong and it’s certainly out of whack with what
everybody else in the state has to pay,” he said.

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