Iowa’s Quad-City Times and Others Push Back at Union Power Grab

The union power grab of local school boards is hitting a snag. Editorial boards, educators and now, perhaps, even the Democrat governor is saying the unions and their cronies in the legislature are going too far, too fast.

The Quad-City Times editorial page writes:

Call it a warning ticket. Gov. Chet Culver admonished Iowa’s Democratic legislative leaders to put the brakes on a bill rushed through before most folks knew what it was about.

Eight days ago, we hadn’t heard a peep of concern about the limits on public employee collective bargaining in Iowa. It didn’t come up in the governor’s condition of the state address. Democratic leaders Sen. Mike Gronstal and Rep. Pat Murphy didn’t mention it in their 90-minute meeting with the Times [italics added] Editorial Board.

It hadn’t come up with our discussions with Iowa mayors, school board superintendents or even public union leaders. None of the state legislative candidates mentioned it in their editorial board interviews.

We received zero letters to the editor on the subject. In fact, until last week, no one had ever dialed a phone or dropped a single e-mail line suggesting that collective bargaining should be significantly expanded for organized employees who work for the government.

On the afternoon of March 18, a Democratic house majority approved an amendment that added a laundry list of topics to public employee negotiations. Some of the additions seem warranted. Many, many others do not.

The newly expanded list of topics takes many policy issues — public school class size, health and safety matters, even staffing levels — out of the hands of elected aldermen, supervisors and school board members and puts them on a private negotiating table. Though the final contracts are public, elements of pending labor negotiations are not.

Worse, the impasses in these private negotiations are resolved by binding arbitration, giving the public little recourse for these critical policy decisions negotiated behind closed doors.

These important public employee negotiations require good faith from all participants. The heart of this bill began in bad faith. Democrats appear to have muscled it through simply because they could, driving a deeper wedge not only among partisans in the statehouse, but labor and management in the schoolhouse and city hall.

On Tuesday, Culver’s admonition prompted Gronstal to file a motion to reconsider, a legislative tactic that could lead to more debate. But we’re not sure Gronstal gets it. He said his motion will give the “governor and his staff additional time to read the legislation.” Good for the governor and his staff. How about taxpayers? Town councils? School board members? Republican lawmakers? Gronstal’s retort seems to discount any discussion, alternatives or compromise.

We commend Culver for issuing the warning ticket by threatening a veto. We hope he’s prepared with stiffer measures should Gronstal and Murphy fail to heed the warning.

    The Illinois lesson

Iowa State Education Association lobbyist Brad Hudson defended the expansion of collective bargaining rights with this novel comparison. “It hasn’t bankrupted Illinois or Wisconsin or the 25 other states,” with the law. We’d encourage the teachers’ union to school their lobbyist before using Illinois as an example for anything about government budgeting.