Iowa lawmakers pass bill to curb public sector unions
Image: Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa), official portrait

Republican lawmakers in Iowa approved legislation on Thursday to limit the powers of public sector unions to negotiate for state and local employees, restrictions similar to those previously enacted in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Both the House of Representatives and the state Senate voted in favor of the measure, which was opposed by Democrats and unions who have said that it will gut collective bargaining rights.

Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad supports the legislation, which paves the way for Iowa to join Wisconsin and Michigan in imposing restrictions on public sector unions. Branstad said it was needed to save money for the state.

"These reforms are intended to rebalance the collective bargaining system which has not been updated in more than 40 years," Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said in a statement Thursday.

"These are common sense reforms that preserve our system of collective bargaining and ensure Iowa’s taxpayers have a seat at the table."

The measure lifts mandates that require state and local governments to negotiate with public sector unions on how much employees receive in health benefits. Instead, mandated negotiations would center on wages.

Public safety employees, including police and firefighters, would be exempted from the changes.

The legislation also would make it easier to dismiss certain state and local employees, including teachers, who are deemed by their supervisors to be poor performers.

Groups including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have said the measure, supported by the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, would dismantle collective bargaining rights.

The House voted 53-47 in favor of the legislation, the Senate 29-21.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Tom Brown)