IC backs workers

By Naomi Hofferber

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Iowa City will stand behind its employees after a bill rolling back public workers’ collective-bargaining rights passed the Iowa Legislature.

The Iowa City City Council passed a resolution 7-0 Tuesday night supporting city employees and collective-bargaining units.“I just think this is a great thing to be doing,” Councilor Susan Mims said. “Particularly with the changes that are going on with the state and national level, I don’t think we could ever overstate the importance of our staff, the great job that they do for us, and the importance of collective bargaining. We had a great law in the state that was a bipartisan effort that was put in place by a Republican governor years and years ago, and it’s worked very, very well, and I find it very disappointing to see the changes we’ve seen.”

The resolution comes after the approval of House File 291, which scaled back collective-bargaining rights for state public workers. The file was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad on Feb. 16; it had encountered much opposition from Iowa union groups.

“I’m very pleased to sign this bill into law,” Branstad said in a Feb. 17 statement on his website. “These necessary reforms to our antiquated 43-year-old public-employee collective-bargaining law bring fairness for Iowa taxpayers and flexibility to public employees. This bill also gives local governments, schools, and state government greater freedom in managing their resources with the opportunity to reward good public employees.”

The resolution passed by City Council “recognizes the benefits to the organization and the community when employees have a voice in the workplace.”

“I think the key thing, too, is just to emphasize with the whole discussion that’s going on in Des Moines is that our employees are valuable, and they add value to the community,” Councilor Rockne Cole said. “It’s not only good for them, it’s good for us as well, so we really do thank you for all the wonderful work you do for our community.”

An Iowa teacher’s union announced a lawsuit against House File 291 Tuesday morning, and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Iowa Council 61, has launched a lawsuit as well.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke in support of the bill in a statement on Branstad’s website: “I’m excited about the long overdue reforms that have been put in place today. My experience as county treasurer for 13 years gave me a firsthand look at how out of balance the system had become. Finally, Iowa taxpayers have a seat at the table and local governments are empowered to make decisions in the best interests of said communities and schools … This new, balanced system is something all Iowans can celebrate.”

Despite state leader positions on the issue, the city will stand behind its employees.

“I think it was great that we’re able to extend the contact so that at least we’ve got some length to it so that in case anything does happen … we’ve got that safeguard,” Councilor Pauline Taylor said.

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