Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Steamrolling workers' rights

Union supporters Tuesday protested proposals by Gov. Terry Branstad and Republicans in the Legislature to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights. An Iowa House subcommittee was discussing the issue that day. Branstad had earlier laid out his own plans to reform the state's labor laws. Among his priorities are eliminating automatic step raises for another year of work and having workers pay more for health insurance. Another recommendation is allowing the governor or Legislature to set aside an arbitrator's ruling, which is made after a union and government employer come to an impasse. He's also using tough talk when it comes to unions, tellling a Lee Enterprises reporter earlier this month that they have "totally" had it their way. "They rolled over the previous governor, and that is going to change," he said. Former Gov. Chet Culver gave him cover for such a statement by essentially declining to negotiate contracts with state employee unions so they could settle before his term ended. Branstad had requested that his admininstration be included  in the negotiations. While Branstad makes a valid point, I think he owes his revived political career to a different steamroller that he's still driving (and that flatten Culver). Essentially, that's the tea party-fueled backlash against government, which is disgusted with business-as-usual and freaked out about spending levels. In that vein, Branstad is challenging union power in at least one other way. He issued an executive order after taking office last month prohibiting state funds from being spent on public works projects that use project labor agreements. The agreements give preference to contractors who spell out workers' pay and benefits. Branstad has threatened Cedar Rapids with the loss of state I-JOBS funds awarded earlier for remodeling its convention complex, which uses a project labor agreement. The Cedar Rapids City Council Tuesday approved contracts for the project despite the threats.


  1. I really appreciate these cartoons and articles. I think that this is a well-written piece. Although it is clear that this is an opinion article, I appreciate that you lay down enough background to put the opinion in context. Also, the tone is subdued and conversational enough to read even if I disagree. Well done!

  2. Thanks, John. It's nice to hear some feedback.