Collective Bargaining

The issue of collective bargaining is a hot topic around the nation. Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and most recently Iowa, have been focal points for a debate about each state’s own process for collective bargaining.

In Wisconsin, Democrat Senators fled the state in order to prevent a vote that forces public employees to pay for a portion of their health insurance and pension plans and the bill also eliminates collective bargaining rights except in relation to wages. Republicans in Wisconsin control both the Senate and the House as well as the Governor’s office. Gov. Walker has vowed a vote on the bill and is not interested in a compromise.

Iowans are not unfamiliar with the issue that is being debated in Indiana where a scene similar to Wisconsin was set as Democrat House members have reportedly fled the state. Republicans in Indiana are attempting to pass Right-to-Work legislation, which prevents any worker from being forced to join or pay dues to a union to get or keep a job. The current arrangement, also known as “Fair Share,” forces non-union workers to pay union dues regardless of their membership in the union. Iowa is currently a Right to Work state, and Iowa Democrats attempted to change that in 2007 by repealing those provisions in Iowa law. Their attempts ultimately failed in the House after the bill had originally passed the Senate.

Iowa had its own run in with labor issues this week. Wednesday saw a protest from union members, and a counter-protest from Tea Party members. Also under discussion that afternoon was the subcommittee on HSB 117, which is a bill sponsored by House Republicans that affects the collective bargaining law in Iowa. The subcommittee heard from a variety of individuals who spoke for and against the bill. The major changes in the bill include: the ability of a public employee to opt out of representation by the union, allowing the state to control what portion state employees pay for insurance (currently, 84% of state employees pay no premiums for health insurance), allowing an arbitrator to make a decision between two opposing sides during the arbitration process (currently, the arbitrator must only choose either side A’s offer or side B’s offer), forcing the arbitrator to compare public and private wages and benefits when possible (currently, the arbitrator does not have to compare to private wages or benefits), and forbidding the arbitrator from considering past bargaining agreements when negotiating new contracts.

The bill will continue to be worked on by Republicans, who have invited their Democrat counterparts to provide input into making the bill better. The bill will move on to the full Labor committee before it is sent to the House floor.