The last two weeks have been the most contentious in my 17 years in the Legislature.
In just 10 days, Republican lawmakers and Governor Branstad unraveled Iowa’s successful, bipartisan collective bargaining law. After watching the events unfold the last week and a half, what we’ve learned is that the fix was in long before Iowans ever saw the bill.
For several months, Republicans, Branstad and Reynolds have hinted at “tweaks” to our collective bargaining law. That law simply requires Iowans and their public employer (school, city, county, etc.) to sit down and work together to discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace.
Written in secret behind closed doors, Republicans had months to get the bill drafted with support from dark money specials interest groups, including the Koch Brothers, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Before the bill was released to the public, another special interest group funded by out-of-state corporations even started running television commercials to support the secret bill. That’s because the special interest fix was in.
When the bill finally did become public, it turned out to be a major overhaul of collective bargaining crafted with zero input from the public, workers, or any public employers in the state. Because the special interest fix was in.
As Republicans fast tracked the bill to shield themselves from criticism, thousands of Iowans turned out at public forums across the state to voice their opposition to the bill in Mason City, Bettendorf, Postville, Council Bluffs, Independence, and others. Another thousand plus joined a March for Teachers on the Sunday before the vote and then 4,500 Iowans packed the State Capitol on a Monday night for a special public hearing on the bill.
Well over 3,000 Iowans called the Legislature or left comments online opposing the bill and only a handful said they supported the bill. While Republicans said they had strong support, most local elected officials didn’t even support the overhaul of collective bargaining because it went too far and they had no input on the bill. It turns out Republicans weren’t interested in listening to Iowans. Because the special interest fix was in.
So Republicans continued on with their bill to take away rights from 185,000 Iowans. They fast tracked it through both the House and Senate and even shut down debate at noon last Thursday so they could go home early for the weekend. Because the special interest fix was in.
The next day, Governor Branstad signed the bill in a ceremony in his office that was closed to the public and press, but open to corporate lobbyists and special interests. Because the fix was in.
I’ve heard from thousands of Iowans about this bill. Most are surprised that they heard nothing about this from Republicans last fall during the campaign and many are frustrated that the bill was written without any input from Iowans.
So how did we get here?
It started a few years ago when Republicans approved $500 million in new corporate tax giveaways without figuring out how to pay for them. After the giveaways created a state budget deficit, they needed a scapegoat to cover their tracks so they are blaming police officers, teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other working families by saying they are all overpaid and the source of the state’s budget troubles.
It’s deeply troubling to me that hard working Iowans are shouldering the blame and burden from Republicans for these massive corporate tax giveaways. But the special interest fix is in.
I firmly believe that our firefighters, teachers, nurses, police officers, and other dedicated public servants deserve fairness and a voice in their workplace. When Iowa’s collective bargaining law was originally passed, it took two years of lawmakers from both parties working together, listening to the public, and negotiating a solution.
Working together and listening to keep fairness in the workplace. That’s what should have happened in this collective bargaining debate.
Unfortunately, long before the bill was ever introduced, the special interest fix was in. And Iowans were left out.