Area Unions Eye the Big Crowd at Iowa Capitol for Collective Bargaining Hearing

More than 1,000 people were gathered at the state Capitol for a legislative hearing about a bill that would dramatically change Iowa’s collective bargaining law. Many more including area teachers, government employees, and public officials watched online as the hearing commenced.

Hundreds of people at the state house signed up to speak at the two-hour hearing Monday night.

They gave their views on a 68-page bill that would remove most issues other than wages from Iowa’s collective bargain rules for public employee unions. The bill also would require unions to manually collect dues from members instead of automatic paycheck deductions. This could be done by members going to their banks and setting up automatic payments or by writing out a check each month to the union.

The bill was in committee last week, one that area Senator Dennis Guth sits on. Debate is expected to be short and many think that it will quickly come up for a vote in both the House and Senate. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, who largely favor the effort, as does Governor Terry Branstad.

The state’s four Catholic bishops are at the statehouse today as legislators prepare to debate a bill that makes changes in Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public sector unions. Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels of the Dubuque Archdiocese is Iowa’s top-ranking Catholic official. He wants to deliver his message to lawmakers:

The Iowa Catholic Conference issued an official statement late last Friday and sent it to Governor Terry Branstad, who is a Catholic, and every legislator. While the Iowa Catholic Conference is registered as “neutral” on the bill, he says that the bishops are concerned about provisions which limit the items that can be bargained as well as what an arbitrator can award for a pay raise.

State Senator Dennis Guth, who sits on the Labor and Business Relations Committee in the Senate, described his view on the intent of the bill.

There are a number of benefits that go along with the legislation according to Guth.

Guth admits that this legislation may not be popular with everyone because of the intent written into the bill. However, Guth says the reason behind the legislation is to create better opportunity for those who are deserving of the benefits it would create.

The legislation allows for government entity employees to receive benefits and pay above and beyond current negotiated scale. This would help rural locations gain and retain quality employees. In many cases, school districts, particularly in rural districts, do not have this opportunity. Guth says that with this bill, that would change.

The legislation is currently under debate.

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