Scott Walker’s successful efforts to curb the bargaining power of public employee unions may not have translated into a successful bid for the GOP nomination, but they are gaining traction among other Republican governors at the state level. Reuters reports:
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.
It’s significant that ground zero for public sector union reform is the upper-Midwest, once the capital of organized labor. Democrats try to cast such reforms as a betrayal of workers, but in a post-industrial age when half of union members are public employees whose demands for fatter benefits packages come at direct expense of the taxpayers, many voters don’t see it that way. As James Sherk noted in our pages last year, “A movement formed to defend blue-collar laborers now fights primarily to help white-collar workers expand government.”
Also significant: As in Wisconsin, Iowa’s police and firefighter unions are exempt from the new collective bargaining restrictions. There is a legitimate argument that public safety jobs necessitate greater collective bargaining protections, but it’s more likely that the police and firefighters won this carveout because they are more likely to support right-leaning politicians who currently control the government. This is probably bad policy; the case of Dallas proves that police and firefighter pensions can also spin out of control when powerful unions can take on weak and pliant legislators.
Nonetheless, the purple state push for public sector union reform is a good thing for taxpayers and quality of governance. Hopefully it gets momentum outside of the WI-MI-IA trifecta.