Busting Iowa’s Public Unions

(2 minutes)

Looks like Republicans will finally achieve one of Terry Branstad’s dreams: public unions are on the verge of being effectively destroyed in Iowa.

The Iowa Policy Project did an analysis of the effects of the republican attacks on collective bargaining. While some legislators no doubt deeply believe that they are serving a major smack-down to unions that are out of control and way overpaid, they seldom think of the ripple effects.

As IPP notes the ripple effects will be especially felt in rural areas where state and local governments are some of the best employment opportunities in this areas.

Public employees are a significant share of the Iowa workforce and live and work in every Iowa county, from the most urban to the most rural. Of the nearly 1.6 million nonfarm payroll jobs in Iowa, about 1 in 7 jobs — 238,500 — are in state and local government. These workers are important to the state’s economy, as taxpayers supporting local schools and state and local services, and as consumers supporting local businesses and other private sector jobs.

Potential impact of changes in a law directly affecting the working conditions of such a large number of Iowans, who are engaged in every aspect of essential public service from the local to the state level, will be significant and widespread. From snowplow drivers to nurses, teachers to custodians, police, dispatchers, fire fighters, county clerks, librarians, social workers, corrections officers, paraeducators, and many other public employees in communities across Iowa could see changes in their pay, benefits and working conditions. Such changes would, in turn, have consequences for local economies, public services, and Iowa’s labor market as a whole.

New limitations on collective bargaining predictably opens the door to erosion of wages, benefits, and working conditions in public employment, and corresponding spillover effects of downward pressure on wages and working conditions in the private sector. Such labor market effects have become evident in Wisconsin five years after dramatic collective bargaining changes were enacted, and lawmakers in Iowa should be wary of the statewide economic impact likely to accompany any such changes here. Since 2011, Wisconsin has fallen to 40th of 50 states in job growth, and 42nd in wage growth.[3]

Any decline in the number or quality of public sector jobs will have a disproportionate effect on Iowa’s rural communities because, as the USDA notes, the public sector is a “major source of earned income in rural areas” that tend to attract far fewer of the financial, professional, or information service activities concentrated in urban areas.[10] Eroding the quality of public sector jobs in Iowa will further exacerbate recent effects of unprecedented declining public-sector employment levels following the last recession, which USDA data suggests are already causing negative effects in rural counties, along with negative multiplier effects on private-sector employment.[11]

The article goes into much greater detail documenting the potential effects. The point is simply this: Unions have not caused any problems in the Iowa economy. They do not exist in a vacuum and the huge changes to the current system that will result in negative impact on the workers will have a great effect on the Iowa economy as a whole.

Drastic changes like this dovetail nicely with Republican long term goals of destroying unions. The major reason behind the destruction of the unions is the unions role as the main base for the Democratic Party and their legally recognized role as bargaining units. As bargaining units unions were once able to help the common worker achieve middle class and dignity.

Since unions were given legal backing during the New Deal, Republicans have had unions in their legislative sights.

Republicans have used a vast amount of lies to push for the end of unions. Now they are within grasp of that goal. This has been one of the main reasons that businesses and corporations have backed Republicans. Without legal recognition of unions, corporations believe that their profits will soar as they can get labor on the cheap. This is of course the logic behind moving their manufacturing offshore – cheap labor.

What they forget is that in order to sell their widgets and other crap, they must have customers. As wages stagnate and even depress, as other fixed costs such as health insurance and housing squeeze the family budget even more, the customer base is drying up. As with many things the small business person is hit first.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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