Local union leaders react to collective bargaining vote
DES MOINES, IA (KTIV) -
Many Iowans are divided, by sweeping changes to the state's collective bargaining law that lawmakers approved Thursday.
It's the first major change to the law since it was passed in 1974.
After three days of debate in both the Iowa Senate and House, the Republican led chambers both passed the bill that will cut most collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state.
The bill will head to Governor Terry Branstad's desk, where he's expected to sign it into law.
"I'm really excited, I think this is a great step forward step for Iowa," said Rep. Megan Jones, (R) Sioux Rapids, IA. "Far too long Iowans have been burdened with the tactics of the unions and it is a brighter day in Iowa and I cannot tell you how many people have emailed me or contacted me telling me how much they support my vote."
The reform, favored by Republicans, and opposed by Democrats, passed the House and Senate on a mostly party-line vote.
"Since 1974 when the law was started, the whole idea was to find an equal kind of balance between the employer and the employee and it's worked," said Bruce Lear, director of the Sioux City Education Association. "It's worked very well. We've had labor peace in Iowa. And now, what they've done is tilted it one way."
Right now, Iowa's collective bargaining law ensures public workers, like teachers, nurses and correctional officers, can negotiate issues including health insurance, extra pay and grievances.
But if the bill becomes a law, that would change.
Tim Kacena is a former Sioux City firefighter, and union rep, who serves in the Iowa House. He agrees that this is a blow to thousands of employees.
"It's just real devastating for the public workers in our area, including our teachers, the disrespect that they showed them," said Rep. Tim Kacena, (D) Sioux City. "They don't believe that the guards in our prison are public safety personnel. They don't believe that the probations that go out are public certainty as far as personnel go. It's just, it's horrible."
One Siouxland union, with more than 200 members, is already facing the impact of Thursday's votes.
"I already have members that are going to leave employment of the city and go work for private sector," said Chris De Harty, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212, "I have several that have already told me they're going to work for private sector. They're already going to job interviews."
Iowa union and school leaders are rushing to complete contracts before the bill becomes state law.
It's expected that Governor Branstad will sign it.