Thursday, house file 291 was passed in the Iowa House, and Friday, it was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad. House file 291 involves changes to Chapter 20, which dictates the collective bargaining ability of state employees. Under the bill, most public-sector union contract negotiations will be limited only to base wages. Additionally, unions will be banned from negotiating with their employers over issues such as health insurance, evaluation procedures, staff reduction, and leave of absence. State Representative Jarad Klein (R) has been on the committee working on the legislation, and he believes in passing this bill, they’ve done their job in giving the people the changes they desire. He said, “I think the people have definitely spoken, that they want change. They want to see these things get cleaned up and fixed.”
Senator Rich Taylor (D) had been working to prevent house file 291 and it’s companion in the senate, senate file 213, from coming to pass. He believes the republicans have been dishonest about the benefits of the bill. He explained, “They say that this will give more control to the local governments and the school boards. But that’s not true, because they actually in the bill prohibit public entities from even discussing conditions of work in their contracts.”
Changes to Chapter 20 are expected to greatly affect employees at public schools. Mid-Prairie Superintendent Mark Schneider feels the changes are a mistake, “I do believe that there were some changes that needed to be made to Chapter 20, but it would be my opinion that those changes would be minimal. I think there’s going to be some unforeseen consequences that people are going to regret.” Chapter 20 was originally written into Iowa code in 1974, was passed by a republican-controlled general assembly, and was signed by a republican governor. Its purpose was to give public employees the ability to bargain collectively for wage, benefits, and other workplace issues, with impasses resolved by binding arbitration. In exchange, public employees gave up the right to strike.