DES MOINES, Iowa • The Iowa House approved a bill Friday limiting public workers' collective bargaining rights and requiring them to pay more for their health insurance.
But while similar legislation reducing the power of unions has passed in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, it is unlikely to become law in Iowa. Democrats who control the Senate there have said they won't allow debate on the bill backed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.
Republicans who control the House insisted the measure was needed to help address a state budget shortfall estimated at between $500 million and $700 million.
"The state can no longer afford, and the taxpayers can no longer support, health care insurance which does not require the employee to at least contribute something to their own health care coverage," Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City, said.
But Democrats say the bill is a political attack on the public employee unions that traditionally support their party.
"Like Wisconsin, Republicans in Iowa will stop at nothing to take away rights from police officers, firefighters, state troopers, teachers, correction officers and other hard-working Iowans," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines.
The Iowa bill would require state workers to pay at least $100 a month toward the cost of their health care and would not allow them to negotiate or vote on layoff procedures. That means managers could decide who would be let go instead of layoffs being done according to seniority, which is typical.
The bill also would give arbitrators new options when state and union negotiators can't agree. Currently, state law requires an arbitrator to choose between the final offer from the state and the final offer from the union. The bill would allow an arbitrator to craft a compromise from those two offers and consider private-sector agreements when making a decision. For example, if the state proposed having workers pay $100 a month toward their health insurance costs and a union proposed a $50 contribution, the arbitrator could consider what workers at private companies typically pay.