Miner Queries | Cherie Miner

On Sat., Feb. 18, I dragged myself out of bed early to attend our local legislators’ 7 a.m. briefing at the YMCA. I was surprised to arrive about 6:50 a.m. to a room filling with people. Rep. David Sieck was already there engaged in conversation. Senator Mark Costello arrived shortly before things got underway.

As expected, the hot topic was the vote to change Chapter 20, Iowa’s long-standing bipartisan collective bargaining law, which Costello described as “lopsided rules.”  He then began the briefing with an overview of the process used to pass the new law with occasional additions from Rep. Sieck. 

As Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line wrote on Feb. 14, Republicans used to have a completely different view of Chapter 20. In fact, when Democrats proposed changes in 2008 to expand what employees could bargain for, Jeff Kaufmann, current chair of the Iowa Republican party said, “Our collective bargaining laws always have been a balance between employer and employee; management and labor.

“When legislation happens without any input from the minority political party or the affected citizens, bad things are bound to happen,” Kaufmann continued in 2008. “I have been on both sides of the bargaining table and this legislation is not good policy. The original collective bargaining law was a work of bipartisanship, this was the exact opposite.”

Prophetic words. 

And contrary to Senator Costello’s assurances that a full and thorough process had been used to pass the new law, late Saturday evening Democratic Senator Rob Hogg took to Facebook to issue a list of “20 major procedural irregularities used by Republicans on the bill to take away workers’ rights and teachers’ rights (that were originally enacted in 1974 by a Republican Governor and a Republican Legislature after two full years of work and after 12 days of floor debate in Iowa House and a week in Iowa Senate).”

At the top of the list: Republicans did not campaign on this issue. Other highlights include: coordinating their efforts with an Americans for Prosperity (Koch Brothers’ organization) ad campaign; discussion with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; no discussion with the groups affected by the legislation, and accelerating the legislative process to limit discussion and amendments. I recommend you go read the entire list.

Speaking of the Koch Brothers, after the legislature rammed through this bill, it was signed by Governor Branstad behind closed doors. However, the Des Moines Register reported Drew Klein, the state director of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, was present. 

As a final note, the Koch Brothers’ PR campaign to make you think unions hurt taxpayers and workers continues. Last week’s Guest Opinion column, “Iowa’s privileged class: State government employees” was written by Amy Frantz of the Public Interest Institute (PII). 

According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch, PII is a “non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research organization . . . PII has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) through Richard Vedder, a member of their advisory board.” As a 501(c)3 organization, PII does not disclose its funding, in other words, it receives dark money. The issues PII researches include: “limiting government spending and privatization of government services.”

What does this mean for Iowa and its public institutions like schools? Well, a Minnesota school superintendent has already weighed in via a letter to the editor to thank legislators for encouraging Iowa teachers to move north. Meanwhile, Iowa’s teacher shortage is about to get worse. 

And those “privileged” Iowa public employees? The governor now has his sight set on their retirement funds. 

Voters, you better start asking yourself who’s next.


Cherie Miner is a local parent, community volunteer, freelance writer and artist. In a former life, she was a corporate writer and public relations professional. Contact her at news@redoakexpress.com or on Facebook.

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