SUNDAY TALK: Upmeyer Hails Collective Bargaining Reforms

by Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer

Members worked hard this week as we debated reforms to the state’s collective bargaining laws.  On Thursday afternoon, both the House and Senate passed House File 291 and sent it the Governor, where we expect him to sign the bill into law.

These much needed reforms will restore balance to Iowa’s outdated collective bargaining laws.

House File 291 will allow local officials, like schools, cities, and counties, to have more flexibility and control over their resources.  This will give locally elected leaders more tools to effectively manage their agencies.

Local officials are elected by their local voters to address the issues before those communities.  Greater flexibility for school boards, city councils, mayors and boards of supervisors, along with state government officials, allows for more effective allocation of resources.  Changing the mandated items that must be bargained for allows management the ability to actually manage.

We can all think back to our days in school, and many of us remember a teacher who truly stood out.  Perhaps a teacher who went the extra mile and inspired their students.  We know that the best way to teach our kids is to have a teacher that stimulates and motivates.  These reforms seek to reward those exceptional teachers that have changed many of our lives.

During this process, we heard from many Iowans at forums, through phone calls and emails, as well as during the subcommittee and committee process.  We also held a public hearing on the bill on Monday, and heard comments from many others.  It’s because of these conversations that we made a number of changes to the original bill.

One major concern we heard was that people were worried about the removal of “proper cause” in employee terminations and suspensions.  We believed workers would still be protected under existing laws, but in effort to reassure Iowans and remove any confusion, we put this language back in the bill.

Many people expressed concerns about the scope of negotiations, specifically regarding the prohibited topics.  We looked back at this section of the bill and decided to move seniority, grievance procedures, and release time back into permissive topics of discussion.

We listened to many of the concerns that people had on this bill and worked to resolve those issues.  This is a better bill as a result of the input we received.

These reforms are intended to rebalance the collective bargaining system which has not been updated in more than 40 years.  These are common sense reforms that preserve our system of collective bargaining and ensure Iowa’s taxpayers have a seat at the table.

As the session continues to move along, please stay in touch.  Legislation is moving through the process, so please let me know your thoughts as different bills arise.  You can reach me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-3521.

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