Collective Bargaining


The Iowa legislature has
passed one of the most controversial
bills in years. While republicans claim
victory and democrats declare political war, we
discuss the aftermath of collective bargaining
legislation on this edition of Iowa Press. Funding for Iowa Press was
provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation. Iowa Community
Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of
Foundations, connecting donors to the causes and
communities they care about for good,
for Iowa, for ever. Details at
iowacommunityfoundations.org. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. Iowa Communications
Network. The availability of high
speed broadband service is essential to fulfilling
the promise of a connected Iowa. ICN’s Broadband Matters
campaign showcases the importance of delivering
broadband to all corners of Iowa. Information is available
at broadbandmatters.com. UIeCare is helping provide
access to health care services to more Iowans. By offering online visits
with a University of Iowa health care provider,
UIeCare helps Iowans seek medical care without
leaving home. Learn more at UIeCare.com. ♪♪ For decades Iowa
Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers
from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than
40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide
Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday,
February 17 edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen. Yepsen: It has been nearly
43 years since Governor Robert Ray signed
bipartisan legislation signaling a new era
between state government and public sector unions. It was a system known
commonly as collective bargaining. Now, Ray’s former
Lieutenant Governor, Terry Branstad, has signed into
law the largest changes to that legislation
since its inception. And the aftermath
could be seismic. Here to talk about it are
Tammy Wawro, President of the Iowa State Education
Association representing thousands of teachers
and Gretchen Tegeler, an advocate of collective
bargaining change, is the former state budget
director and chief of staff to Governor
Branstad. She now leads the
Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa. Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being
here with us today. Thanks, David. Yepsen: And also joining
in the conversation, Political Journalist James
Lynch, Political Reporter for the Gazette in Cedar
Rapids and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson. Henderson: Miss Tegeler,
let’s speak first to the taxpayers at home. This was billed as a
way to save money for taxpayers. Property taxes are paid
to support local schools, cities, counties. How much will I see,
if I’m a taxpayer, a reduction in my
property taxes. Tegeler: Thanks for
the question, Kay. What’s happened here will
have a very beneficial effect in containing the
growth and spending by governments across Iowa. So I would look for
taxpayers to not look for an immediate reduction
in their tax bills. Instead we have put the
state and all of its government on a path to
live within the means that are generated from the
property taxes and from all other taxes and not
push increases on Iowans that have to accept them
based on someone else’s determination. So I wouldn’t look for an
immediate reduction in taxes. This is a containment
strategy over the long-term. Henderson: Dr. Wawro, you
look like you wanted to add something to
that conversation. Wawro: I’m really confused
how that would happen. I’m not sure what in this
bill gives taxpayers that. It would seem to me the
fiscal note on here says it is inconclusive. So I’m not sure where
we would see that. I do think there will
be impacts in that many people are not going to be
spending, they’re going to be holding back because
they’re just not sure what they may make
the next year. But I think the same
amount of money will be spent. It might be spent in
different ways for different people. Lynch: Let’s follow that
with the impact in the classroom. As parents and school
children, what are they going to see? What change is going to
happen in the classroom? And how soon are we going
to see those changes? Wawro: Well, this bill
makes it illegal for teachers to sit down and
talk about safety concerns with their administrators
as far as putting it into an agreement. We have lots of things
that we would talk about at the bargaining table
that had nothing to do with dollars, it had to do
with evaluation for the improvement of practice,
it has to do with helping get the right person
into the right position. And this bill does not
allow us to sit down and even have a conversation
with our school board even if our school
board wanted to. So directly impacting
our classrooms. The other piece is new
teachers coming into the profession. This bill takes away just
cause for someone in their first or second
year of teaching. They can be let
go for no reason. And that is a big concern
for our first and second year teachers who are
on an initial license. So I think our impact of
bringing new teachers into Iowa is going
to be dramatic. Lynch: Those numbers have
already dropped, the number of people going
into teacher education programs. And you think this will
cause that number to go down faster? Wawro: I do, I really do. My own son is in teacher
prep program in Minnesota and my heart is heavy
because I firmly believe he may have to stay in
Minnesota to be secure in knowing what he will make
as an educator, what benefits he will get and
if he can raise a family in our state. Lynch: Are we likely to
see a wave of teacher retirements as a result
of these changes? Wawro: I believe not just
because of the changes that are in here, but of
the passion that came with it, the actual disrespect
for the teaching profession that was in
this bill is having many people question if they’re
going to stay longer. They give their heart and
soul every day and many of the debate centered around
the work that teachers do and that was late in the
night that they didn’t even get to hear. So I think it’s two-fold. I think the bill itself is
harmful and I think the intent of the
bill is harmful. Yepsen: Ms. Tegeler, what
is your reaction to what she just said? Tegeler: Well, the
Milwaukee Journal has done a series of articles
called Act X at 5. So it’s five years later
and they have gone in and analyzed what has happened
there and there was, in terms of teacher
enrollment, that has been on the decline. And following Act X there
was an initial reduction but now it is all back on
the same long-term trend as has always been there. The same is true with
teacher retirements. There was an immediate
impact but now it is back to the level that it
was and is back on the long-term trend. So those things haven’t
played out elsewhere with very similar
bill language. In terms of the impact on
teaching, keep in mind, and this is something I’ve
learned over the years, that a lot of the folks,
most of them that are in jobs that are part of the
collective bargaining system in the public
sector have not worked in a different management
environment. And so it is scary to
think about what could be different. But the reality is in a
different environment where the actual managers
are doing more than making sure that contract
language is adhered to they become, their job
becomes helping teachers succeed, helping
employees be successful, concentrating on what
needs to happen to get the best outcomes. It is an environment and
a culture that allows excellence to
really thrive. So I think it’s
unfortunate that such fear has been planted because
a vast majority of Iowa public employees are great
and I think they’re going to find out that once some
of the fetters come off in terms of how everyday
business is dictated and how pay is administered
they’re going to find an environment that
is very positive. Different, yes,
different for everyone. But I think it will
be very positive just speaking from my own
personal experience in non-profit as well
as private sector. Yepsen: Dr. Wawro, what is
your reaction to what you just heard? Wawro: Well, I think that
is actually the exact opposite. The bill only allows
us to talk about wages. What we sit down and talk
about, I’m not going to sell our administrators
short, they talk about the improvement of profession
and we just spent two years with the Council of
Educator Development that the Governor put forth
working on a really good implementation for teacher
evaluation and how we would put that out into
our districts and that’s part of the collective
bargaining process. When they talk about
wages, that has been very small, very little of what
they talk about is wages. It’s about safety, it’s
about improving the profession and our
administrators are absolutely in the
classrooms working with us. This bill doesn’t improve
that, this actually takes some local
conversations away. Tegeler: I think what is
different though is it can happen in a more
collaborative environment rather than a
winner and loser. And in the bargaining
environment every change that is made, for someone
it’s a plus, then there has to be a negative
somewhere else. And that tends to be
pretty adversarial whereas when everyone is
collaborating to create good results it
happens more easily. Yepsen: Is that Wisconsin,
Dr. Wawro, is the Wisconsin experience
likely to be true here? Or do you think it
will be different? Wawro: We are very
different than Wisconsin. We were different than
Wisconsin when this started. So Wisconsin, Iowa is a
right-to-work state, our people choose to be
members of their association. Wisconsin was not a
right-to-work state. Wisconsin was already
in the middle of budget shortfalls. We weren’t Wisconsin
before this started and we are not Wisconsin
after it. Our high school graduation
rate is number one in the nation. We have seen things
slip in Wisconsin. We have many Wisconsin
teachers that are teaching in Iowa now. Yepsen: And is that —
what is your understanding of Wisconsin
compared to Iowa? Can we look northeast and
see what is likely to happen here? Tegeler: No two
states are the same. You’re right about that. But very difficult to sort
out all of the different influences and things
that are at play. But I do believe we can
look not just at other public sector but we can
look at the rest of the world basically where
these kinds of agreements are not in place and we
see employees thriving and great results
getting produced. So there’s lots
to point to. I think that it’s a big
change and with change comes a lot of fear. But we believe that we
will see not just better outcomes because of
the loosening and the flexibility that now
is given in these environments, but also it
is true that in looking at the data, and this is how
taxpayers are affected, that over the years the
bargaining agreements do create new spending that
is greater than what the resources are available
to fund those. And so you have this
constant erosion or cannibalization of the
budget going on and that affects public services. Henderson: I want to
shift gears and talk — Tegeler: Taxpayers
care about value. Henderson: Dr. Wawro,
there is a section of the bill about union
organizing that your advocates in the
legislature said would be the death knell for
public sector unions. The state will no longer
collect dues via the payroll and you’re going
to have to recertify the union and have a statewide
vote every few years to exist as a union. How will you survive
in that atmosphere? Wawro: Well, let’s talk
about that a little bit. One, it does take away
our ability to have dues deduction out of our
paycheck so I’ll still be able to give my AFLAC and
my Christmas club out of my paycheck but I won’t be
able to pay my association out of my paycheck. Henderson: But aside from
the details, which you can talk with your folks in
the newsletter — Wawro: It didn’t go to the state
is what I’m saying. It was out of my just
local paycheck it is deducted out. Henderson: Right. But how do you survive
as a union in that environment? We hear from Wisconsin
that they feel as if their public sector unions were
neutered by that law. Wawro: So, again, very
different than Wisconsin. 40% of our membership are
already on electronic funds transfer where they
take it right out of their bank account anyway. So we will just continue
to move the rest of ours to that. Again, in Iowa, our
members already choose to be members of
our association. So that is already a
choice that they’re making. As far as the
recertification that is something we haven’t had
to do before and that allows us to go and
talk to our members. I think there is some
unfairness in it. It has to be — there’s
going to be a lot of money that actually goes into
doing that and I’m very curious how that
helps the taxpayers. Henderson: Again, aside
from details, this has been called union busting,
a way to silence the unions. And at a news conference
this week union people said we’re going to go and
we’re going to organize and we’re going to
defeat legislators. That did not happen
in Wisconsin. They have actually gained
republican seats in the Wisconsin legislature. Wawro: Well, and that also
has to do with the fact that Wisconsin was able
to gerrymander their legislators. So I think Wisconsin
is not like Iowa. We have a very fair way
on how our redistricting would happen. So that goes down the path
of elections and how they change that. Yepsen: Will there be —
one of the reasons we have the collective bargaining
law that we had was teacher strikes were
starting in the early ’70s. And the deal was, we’re
going to go to this, the collective bargaining
system, and in return no more teacher strikes, no
more public employees strikes. Now that is still
banned isn’t it? Wawro: It sure is. Yepsen: So are we going to
be seeing a lot of labor unrest? What happens to labor
peace with state workers who legally don’t have
a right to strike now? Wawro: Right. So there is, I heard the
word flexibility and actually I don’t see a lot
of flexibility in here, I see things that can’t
be talked about and disgruntlement that what
may happen from all sides and we’re not allowed
to go on strike. And let me tell you, our
members don’t want to go on strike. They want to be with
their classrooms, we want garbage picked up, we
want our police officers showing up at things. So republican Governor,
republican Senate, republican House thought
this was a good idea. What happened in the dark
of night is that those rights were taken away but
the one right that was left, two, we can talk
about base wage and we can’t go on strike. Yepsen: What about
this strike business. Isn’t that reneging on the
deal that was made years ago that you’ll give up
your right to strike in return for collective
bargaining? Ms. Tegeler, your side of
this debate has said, okay we’re going to change the
collective bargaining rights. Why not give them back
the right to strike? Tegeler: I think that so
much has changed since 1974. We have a completely
different environment now that doesn’t create the
kinds of conditions that would be conducive
to strikes. And, again, I was only
just starting college in 1974. I know that the reason
that Governor Ray said he did sign it was
for that reason. They were fearful
of strikes. Since that time we have,
today public workers are in a position where
depending on what level they’re in, I think
professional and management are in a little
bit less than private sector, the service sector
a lot more, but all across the board the benefits are
far, far, far greater than they have been. And I don’t think and
experience has shown also those aren’t going
to go away overnight. They’re probably going to
continue to be better. So we have a whole
workforce that is really at a place, a very good
place compared to where they were in ’74. Yepsen: Do you have a
quick reaction to that? Wawro: I don’t think we
have any guarantees of what our benefits will be
like on July 1 for many of our members so I don’t
think that’s fair. Tegeler: No one does. Yepsen: James? Lynch: Ms. Tegeler, some
of the actions we’ve talked about, not
collecting union dues from the paycheck, those sorts
of things, just seem punitive, especially from
an employee’s standpoint, that seems punitive. What employer wants to
make employees mad or irritate them whether than
sort of assist them and maintain labor
peace, as David said? Tegeler: And I think
that’s the other thing that has changed is
management today, management theory and
management practice people don’t want to aggravate
employees, they want to keep employees. Lynch: So why take away
those little details? Why take it away? Tegeler: The legislature,
again I can’t speak for them and I don’t have
strong feelings on these elements of the bill, but
I’m guessing the thought process was that that
creates a real advantage and source of income for
a group that it would be hard to differentiate
from others. Henderson: Well let me
ask it a different way. Are you a registered
republican? Tegeler: I am. Henderson: Do you agree
with your party’s platform that public sector
unions should go away? Tegeler: I didn’t know
that was in the platform because I’m not terribly
active in the party. Henderson: But do you
agree that public sector unions should go away? Tegeler: I have
reservations about unions in the public sector
because it’s very different. The bosses are you can
elect them and collecting dues through payroll kind
of allows that to in turn be used to determine who
they’re bargaining with. There are some nuances in
the public sector that even FDR, who was our
biggest labor advocate of all time, felt that it
wasn’t appropriate in the public sector. In the private sector it
generates profit and that was about sharing. Here I don’t think I’d go
that far but — Yepsen: I want to interrupt. I want to give Tammy Wawro
a chance to respond. Wawro: I’m not sure
what I’m responding to. Can you re-ask
the question? Yepsen: Is this a
union busting thing? Wawro: Well, it’s clear
that the Republican Party, it’s in their platform,
do not want a collective group of people
to have a voice. That is what this does. But I’m not going
to let that happen. We have seen actually
membership growth since the elections after
November and just yesterday ten more members
joined in a local in eastern Iowa. Remember, this bargaining
bill doesn’t just hurt union members, it hurts
everybody that is covered under this bill. So people are starting to
realize what they have gotten when the union
brings everybody up, everyone does better. And this situation is
bringing everybody down as well. Yepsen: My impression is
that the state workers today are pretty
demoralized by this. Is that your impression? Wawro: Yes. Yepsen: What is your
impression of state workers and what
their morale is? We have a workforce fired
up and ready to go do public service or are they
mad at the employer for taking away their
bargaining rights? Tegeler: I’m certain that
the union membership is not happy. I wouldn’t be able to draw
that net across all of state government. I’m not in state
government right now so I’m not sure. But, again, I think what
we have is a great fear, there is this monster
under the bed because it’s change and change doesn’t
necessarily mean bad. Change can be something
very good and I think we have yet to see how
that can play out. Wawro: So many of our
members they are not upset with their employer. Let me be clear. So in school board
situations they’re not answering to the state
government, they’re answering to their
school boards. So they are not angry at
their employer, they’re angry at the legislators,
that’s who they’re angry at. Lynch: So, Ms. Tegeler,
let me ask you this, much of this was sold as giving
local officials local control, giving taxpayers
a seat at the table. If this is so good for
local control why did we see, what was it, like 140
some contract settlements in the past few weeks as
school boards and county boards rushed to settle
before this law got signed today? Tegeler: Well, I think it
was a couple of things, honestly. In a practical, technical
sense what they have done doesn’t make any
difference because they could do all of those
things with or without the bill. However, I do think that
in many cases it was a move to reassure employees
that, you know what, things are going
to be okay. People are very upset,
they have been stirred up and are worried and
concerned and frightened and they needed to
reassure employees that it’s okay, things are
going to be okay and this was a step to be
able to do that. Lynch: Dr. Wawro, I think
your bargaining unit was one of those that
rushed to settle. Was that the message
that things are okay? Wawro: Well, there’s a
couple of things that were inaccurate in what you
just said in that they cannot sit down and
put those words into agreements that are
in agreements now. So once the Governor
signed the bill there are things they could not
sit down and put into agreement that many of our
school boards wanted in written agreements that
were in a collective bargaining agreement. That cannot happen now. So we now, as of this
morning, have 190 contracts done and we are
very appreciative of the fact that there are
managers, there are school board members, there are
superintendents who wanted to ensure that not only
their people felt good but that the were also living
under this agreement. Let’s be clear, this
agreement would, allows them to have some rules to
live by that helps them. Henderson: Ms. Tegeler —
Tegeler: But the employer has the option to do
all of those things. Wawro: Have you
read the bill? Tegeler: They’ll
continue to do those. Wawro: They do not. Tegeler: Whether they’re
written down in the agreement or not the
employer can say well we’re going to continue to
do the health plan that we always have, they could
continue to manage by seniority, they can do
everything that might be in these agreements, it
just isn’t written down. It doesn’t
preclude anything. It’s a symbolic move and I
understand why they would do that to provide
reassurance. Yepsen: I want to move
onto another subject here. Kay? Henderson: Can you
reassure teachers and other state workers, local
government workers that their pensions
won’t be changed. A lot of the discussion we
heard was that that’s the next wave. Tegeler: Oh goodness. At least from our
standpoint, from the Taxpayers of Central Iowa,
we have never suggested that we would take away a
pension for anyone that is in the system. Henderson: But Governor
Branstad told us as reporters that you were
going to come up with a pension reform plan. Tegeler: Well, pension
reform means lots of different things and
it’s very important to understand that our
approach is about retirement security. The people that are in
these plans now, if we don’t do something
different for future employees and we continue
to compound the risk that is in these plans, then
everybody in these plans now is at much
greater risk. Yepsen: We’ve only
got a minute left. Tegeler: We care about
retirement security. Yepsen: Excuse me, we
only have a minute left. What is your
reaction to that? Wawro: To this? Yepsen: Yeah. Is that up next, is
taking on IPERS next? Wawro: I would certainly
hope we would do things that our community needs
done and that wouldn’t be, we absolutely need to sit
down and talk about our members pay 40% of it,
it’s a 60/40 split in Iowa, again, unlike
other states. We are very much at the
table and we want a well-rounded good system. Tegeler: And employees
should have, members should have certainly a
part of that discussion. Yepsen: So you don’t think
the legislature is teeing up now to take on public
employee pensions in any way? Tegeler: I hope they are
teeing up to look at what we have, is it the best
thing going forward for new employees. We need to do some things
different in order to provide retirement
security to those who are in the system. We really need to look at
doing something different for those who may be
coming into the system. And I look forward to it. We had a gentleman here
yesterday talking about how much better it can
be — Wawro: When they knocked on our doors and
talked to constituents across the state they
didn’t talk about changing Chapter 20 and they didn’t
talk about changing our retirement system. Yepsen: I’m out of time. Tegeler: We are
out of time? I can’t believe it. We didn’t even talk
about health benefits. Yepsen: We’ll return next
week with another edition of Iowa Press next week
only at our regular Friday night time of 7:30
before special Festival programming that weekend. For all of us here at Iowa
Public Television, I’m David Yepsen. Thanks for
joining us today. ♪♪ Funding for Iowa
Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public
Television Foundation. Iowa Community
Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of
Foundations, connecting donors to the causes and
communities they care about for good,
for Iowa, for ever. Details at
iowacommunityfoundations.org. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. Iowa Communications
Network. The availability of high
speed broadband service is essential to fulfilling
the promise of a connected Iowa. ICN’s Broadband Matters
campaign showcases the importance of delivering
broadband to all corners of Iowa. Information is available
at broadbandmatters.com. UIeCare is helping provide
access to health care services to more Iowans. By offering online visits
with a University of Iowa health care provider,
UIeCare helps Iowans seek medical care without
leaving home. Learn more at UIeCare.com.

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