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House Labor Committee passes collective bargaining reform in marathon committee meeting

March 7, 2011
By State Representative Betty BeBoef • R-What Cheer
Last Friday morning at 6:04 a.m. the House Labor committee passed HSB 117. Debate began the previous day at 5 p.m. after already having met for two hours earlier in the day. Democrats offered over fifty amendments, which resulted in the debate on the bill taking over 14 hours.

HSB 117 reforms parts of collective bargaining, it does not eliminate it. This bill is not the same as Wisconsin’s bill. Iowa House Republicans are leaving collective bargaining intact when Wisconsin is removing the right to collectively bargain on everything except for wages.

The list that can still be bargained for in Iowa includes: wages, hours, vacations, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health and safety matters, evaluation procedure, in-service training, and other matters mutually agreed upon.

Chapter 20 and collective bargaining are tilted too far in favor of labor and against the taxpayer. While in control of the House, Senate & Governor’s office, Democrats tried to further tilt the field by pushing legislation mandating ‘Fair Share’ and ‘Open Scope Bargaining’. Chapter 20 is not immune to a thoughtful review. HSB 117 forces that review.

HSB 117 looks at a number of ideas that have been brought by House Republicans and the Governor’s office. These possible changes include:

•Creating the possibility of a ‘free agent employee’. This would be an individual who decides that he/she does not want to be represented by a union and would like to bargain his/her contract individually. Currently, state law provides that a union must cover and represent ALL employees in a bargaining unit, even if that individual is not a union member arguing that it was not fair for folks to benefit from unions without paying fees. Democrats attempted to force this very type of individual to pay a ‘fair share fee’ a few years ago, and we are providing an opportunity for those who do not wish to be represented by a union, to go it alone and waive rights to any representation by the union. Interestingly, now the unions are fighting this effort.

•Allowing an arbitrator to choose between two impasse points, not just an either/or scenario. As it currently is law one of the biggest fears of management, and the reason to avoid arbitration is the real perception that, given what an arbitrator is currently allowed to consider, management is likely to lose. Management is only likely to go to binding arbitration if it knows its case is rock solid. Giving the arbitrator power to consider points in between the two parties would allow for a more level playing field at the arbitration level of contract negotiations.

•Changing the scope of negotiations to exclude insurance and procedures for staff reductions from collective bargaining.

•Insurance - This would allow the state to make all decisions concerning the insurance it provides and the portion for which the state pays. Iowa is one of few states that provides free insurance to its employees. 84% of state employees pay no premiums for their health insurance. The taxpayer is forced to pay for what most people in the private sector pay for themselves. The state should be allowed to provide an insurance plan that strikes a balance between fair coverage and taxpayer cost.

•Procedures for Staff Reductions – This would give the ability for management to make the best decision without having to cater to things like seniority. The most senior employee is not necessarily the one that management should be forced to keep in a staff reduction.

•Changing what an arbitrator is allowed to consider during binding arbitration.

•Comparison of public wages and benefits to those of the private sector. Currently, an arbitrator compares wages to other public sector employees. Those public sector employees are often represented by the same unions and thus the comparison amounts to comparing a union to itself. By including a comparison to private wages and benefits, an arbitrator could look at the entire spectrum of facts and maintain parity between the public and private sectors.

•Removing the directive of the arbitrator to consider ‘past collective bargaining contracts between the parties…’ Using this comparison forces the status quo and does not allow for management to adequately and efficiently respond to changes that might occur given special times and circumstances.

State and local spending growth outpaced private sector growth by nearly 90 percent over the past decade and current budget deficits are estimated to exceed $100 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. However, state budget gaps are overshadowed in size and scope by unfunded liabilities in state pension and healthcare systems for public employees, which are trillions in the red.

These unsustainable cost drivers threaten the financial solvency of the states and state legislators can no longer ignore the unfunded liabilities in Other Post Employment Benefit Plans (OPEB). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor, as of December, 2010, state and local government employees received benefits that were 69 percent higher than those in the private sector. State and local government employees earn $13.85 per hour in benefits compared to the private sector workers who earn an average of $8.20 per hour.

Question of the week: Do you support making changes to the current State Collective Bargaining law?

I am always happy to deal with any requests you may have or any input you may offer! Please contact me at 515-281-3221 or

Article Photos

State Representative Betty DeBoef



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