Collective bargaining agreement is too radical

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

     I am writing to you in advance of the vote on House Bill 84 and Senate File 213, concerning collective bargaining, to voice my concern on this radical piece of legislation introduced by the GOP. By the time this letter is published, I am fairly certain this bill will be passed. This bill has two clear aims: to reclaim the losses in the exchequer from large corporate tax breaks by attacking the standard of living of public sector employees and their families, and to decimate the last vestiges of the trade union movement in Iowa.

     The collective bargaining agreement was signed into law in 1974 by Governor Ray, a Republican and a moderate (back when those concepts were not mutually exclusive). For over 40 years, Iowa has had an effective approach towards industrial relations, with an open dialogue balancing the need for progress and prudence with ensuring the state retained quality employees. It was an effective model that utilized independent arbitration and a collaborative problem-solving approach.

     Obviously, following the election, the Republican Party taking all branches of government, changes in this process were to be expected. The incumbents clearly had a lot of leverage to renegotiate the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement that could have gained the taxpayer more flexibility while retaining a voice for public sector workers. Instead of bipartisan compromise, the GOP has sadly decided on an extreme right wing agenda.

     This ideology-over-common-sense approach has been tried and failed in Wisconsin under Scott Walker, who introduced their own union busting bill in 2011. The effect of that radical experiment has been disastrous. With many teachers, particularly those in rural areas, struggling to make a living, Wisconsin district are seeing massive turnover, which negatively impacts on the quality of education provided. It is to the point where they are now lowering the standards for teachers to get licensed, just to get warm bodies into the classrooms. By the way, Governor Walker’s attack on the public sector did nothing for Wisconsin, despite his lavishing of massive tax breaks on the wealthy. His approval rating is currently bouncing around the mid-30s.

     Unions are imperfect, but they speak for the middle classes in this country and provide a counterbalance to the ever-growing corporate/political hegemony. We have to decide as a state whether we need yet more commercial tax cuts for corporate America or whether we will fairly compensate teachers and other public servants who dedicate their lives to making this state a great place to live.

     This bill is a radical overreach, with the finger prints of corporate lobbyists all over it and implemented by an out-of-touch legislature and governor, who have clearly decided that Iowa should be the latest testing ground for the extremism that we have seen poison the national discourse.

Colin Ryan

Monticello, Iowa

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