Monday, March 31, 2008

Democratic Legislators Reframing Collective Bargaining Bill

Democratic Legislators Reframing Collective Bargaining Bill

Eastern Iowa legislators at a weekend Leauge of Women Voter's forum in Iowa City worked to shift the rhetoric on the collective bargaining bill.

"This just allows public sector people equal rights," said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville. "But the press is so biased they talk about 'union demands.'"

"I think it just equalizes the playing field as to what issues can be bargained," said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. "I don't understand why an equal playing field creates problems for administrators."

Governor Chet Culver has threatened to veto the bill, saying it hasn't received enough public debate, but Mascher countered: "It's something Democrats have supported for many many years. It needed to be done a long time ago."

"I really don't think it will have an enormous budgetary impact," said Mascher. "90 percent of contracts are voluntarily settled, and this won't change that at all."

"Public employees understand that if we strangle the employer we're strangling ourselves," said Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids. "The folks we're talking about are also taxpayers."

Taylor said the proposal simply expands the number and nature of items which may be negotiated. "In negotiations, there are the mandatory subjects like wages, and there are permitted subjects," said Taylor. "Open scope just says if one side wants an issue on the table, they have to talk about it. 34 other states have it. It's not a new idea, it's just a new idea for Iowa."

Dvorsky said any contract items would still have to be negotiated, and the process works both ways; local governments could place previously off-limits issues on the table. "Any time we can give a little more respect and dignity for public employees, it's good," he said, adding that open scope would improve relationships with bargaining units.

"One of the issues is teacher prep time," said Mascher, who is an elementary school teacher. "Whenever we got to arbitration, we had to start talking about 'break' time, as opposed to prep time. It's important for us to be able to negotiate prep time."

No comments: