Friday Feb.3, 10:46 AMMatt Sinovic (email@example.com)
In Case You Missed It: 1,000 join Iowa workers to speak out
Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530
Overview: Iowa workers spoke out at 7 different press conferences Wednesday, advocating for the collective bargaining rights of public employees, and against the changes to those rights under Chapter 20 of Iowa code being discussed behind closed doors by the Republican-controlled legislature. At every event the public workers who spoke were greeted by overflowing crowds, with a total of nearly 1,000 gathering across the state.
Despite calls from working families to be included in discussions with the legislature, Republicans seem prepared to move forward to take away the rights of roughly 180,000 public workers, adversely impacting their families and local communities.
The attacks are moving forward despite the fact that Chapter 20 is a bipartisan law, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by Governor Robert Ray, and that it has given Iowa public workers and taxpayers a voice in bargaining for more than 40 years. And despite that fact that the process works: since implementation, there have been no public worker strikes, and a very small percentage of negotiations result in arbitration, only 2 percent last year.
Sioux City Journal Coverage (full story below)
SIOUX CITY | A group of union members in Sioux City urged Gov. Terry Branstad and majority party Republican leaders in the Iowa Legislature to back off still unspecified plans to dilute the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Amy DeGroot-Hammer, an official with a local teacher’s union, was one of four people who spoke as part of an organized statewide push Wednesday to get the attention of legislators. Speaking to a group of more than 60 people, DeGroot-Hammer criticized what she called closed-door plans to tinker with collective bargaining rights, as established in Chapter 20 of the state code.
“All we have heard are rumors on what could be done to us,” DeGroot-Hammer said.
Some possibilities have been floated — implementing a so-called statewide master contract for health insurance, allowing an arbitrator to choose a midpoint in negotiations, requiring unions to recertify annually — but none has yet showed up in bill form. A master contract would establish one health insurance program for all public employees, and public employees in varying occupations across Iowa currently have various health insurance programs.
DeGroot-Hammer said it is critical to maintain the existing workers’ rights to collective bargaining, which she said have enabled 180,000 public employees and their families to live a solid middle class existence. DeGroot-Hammer said it is unsettling that no statehouse lawmakers campaigned on changes to collective bargaining, yet now the possibility of tinkering is being heard.
DeGroot-Hammer, of Sioux City, is a board member of the Iowa State Education Association Siouxland unit. The event was attended by teachers, deputies, firefighters, social workers, building and trades workers and bakers.
Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said he’s been a union member for more than 30 years and seen the good aspects of Iowa’s collective bargaining law from the perspective both of being a deputy and later on the management side. Drew said Iowa rules have resulted in a good working relationship for workers and management to iron out differences.
“We work together,” Drew said. “Chapter 20 works and there is no need to delineate it.”
Rick Stewart, of Sioux City, a member of the Iowa Federation of Labor, noted there have been no public sector strikes since Chapter 20 was set in place in 1974.
“This is political theatrics… a personal attack, that has no merit,” Stewart said.
Other union groups held events Wednesday across Iowa, including in Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Waterloo and Ottumwa.