Iowa Right to Work Law Again Under Fire

Tensions Rise as Union Bosses’ Window of Opportunity Narrows

(Source: January 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

In the wake of the November 2006 elections three years ago, Big Labor strategists were confident they had won all the marbles in Iowa.

After saying nothing in public about the forced-unionism issue during that year’s campaign, victorious Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver announced his support for gutting Iowa’s popular Right to Work law almost as soon as the votes were counted.

And both incoming state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) and incoming state House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) vowed unequivocally that they would get to Gov. Culver’s desk legislation imposing forced union fees on Iowa workers who refuse to join an unwanted union.

Since the Democrat caucuses headed by Mr. Gronstal and Mr. Murphy both controlled substantial majorities in their respective chambers, it seemed they knew what they were talking about.

But then the National Right to Work Committee and the Iowans for Right to Work Committee mobilized to protect the Hawkeye State’s popular, six-decade-old ban on forced union dues and fees.

Pro-Right to Work Iowans Thwarted Forced-Union-Fee Schemes in 2007 and 2009

Even before the new Legislature convened in January 2007, the National Committee began sending out a series of statewide and targeted mailings to members and supporters in Iowa, with a focus on selected House and Senate members in vulnerable seats.

In the end, although a forced-union-fee bill (S.F.413) was rubber-stamped by the Senate, Mr. Murphy and his cohorts were never able to round up the votes to get it through the House. Consequently, they never put it up for a House floor vote.

Last spring, Big Labor-backed Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) introduced another forced-union-fee bill, H.F.555, but it failed to secure a House floor vote in 2009 due, once again, to well-mobilized Right to Work opposition.

And now it looks as if the union bosses’ window of opportunity to sabotage Iowa’s Right to Work law may be closing.

In significant part because of his highly unpopular anti-Right to Work stance, Gov. Culver’s poll numbers are way down.

In a recent general election survey, he trailed both former Gov. Terry Branstad and businessman Bob Vander Plaats, two candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Mr. Branstad, Mr. Vander Plaats and other GOP candidates are promising if elected to protect Iowa’s Right to Work law.

The evident eagerness of Iowa voters to be rid of Mr. Culver cannot plausibly be attributed to the economy, since today Right to Work Iowa is one of just a handful of states with unemployment under 7% and a private sector that has recently gained jobs.

Instead, Mr. Culver has incurred the wrath of Iowa voters by pandering to union bosses and their forced-unionism agenda, which the public overwhelmingly opposes.

Forced Union Fees Would Hurt Iowa’s Economy 

National Committee Vice President Doug Stafford predicted that voters’ passionate opposition to any scheme to weaken Iowa’s Right to Work law would be a key factor in this year’s statewide and state legislative elections.

“Gutting Iowa’s Right to Work law would harm the state’s economy as well as its independent-minded employees,” he added.

“From 2003 through 2008, real personal income grew by more than three times as much in Iowa and in Midwestern Right to Work states as a group as it did in Midwestern forced-unionism states.

“Over that same five-year period, private-sector employment grew by 6.2% in Iowa and by 7.2% in the Midwestern Right to Work states combined. Meanwhile, aggregate private-sector employment in the seven Midwestern forced-unionism states increased by just 1.0%!

“Because H.F.555 was never rejected in a direct floor vote, this forced-fee bill is still alive and could come up at any time after the Iowa Legislature reconvenes this month.

“I expect that, knowing their forced-unionism window of opportunity will likely be closed after this November’s elections, Big Labor will fight furiously to ram through H.F.555 early this year.”