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March 13th, 2009

McCarthy’s Surprise: Open-Scope Bargaining

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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mccarthyThere has been plenty of discussion about how Governor Culver and Democrat leaders in the House have failed to pass any of the labor unions’ legislative priorities. While that is all certainly true, the legislative session is far from over, and all four of the labor bills survived the funnel and can come back at a moment’s notice.

In his weekly press conference with Statehouse reporters yesterday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked if the labor bills are in trouble if they don’t start to move next week. McCarthy responded by saying, “Stay tuned. You may be in for a surprise or two before this session is over.”

So what does that mean? It means that the unions will get theirs.

Now, I don’t see how McCarthy could resurrect prevailing wage, and from everything I’m told, the doctor shopping bill is pretty much dead. That leaves either fair share, or open-scope collective bargaining as his only two options to placate his union supporters. One has to imagine that if they couldn’t pass prevailing wage or the doctor shopping bill in the House, fair share is not going to get very far. That leaves McCarthy and Democrats with really only one option: open-scope bargaining.

As you may remember, last year the Democrat leaders in the Iowa House and Senate rammed HF 2645, or what they called the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Bill, through both chambers. It took only 24 hours for them to get the bill on Culver’s desk for his signature. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 52-47, and it is important to remember that Dolores Mertz, McKinley Bailey, Brian Quirk, Doris Kelley, and Geri Huser all voted for it. This means there are plenty of votes in the House to pass it this year.

Last year, HF 2645 was just an ambiguous little bill pertaining to Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code that really didn’t do much of anything. After a few amendments, that bill turned into the collective bargaining bill, which Culver vetoed due to public outcry over the lack of input from the local governments and schools who opposed the bill.

Now, just like last year, there is an ambiguous bill that pertains to Chapter 20, which can easily morph into fair share legislation or open-scope bargaining. Everyone and their brother knows what’s going to happen next. This bill can easily pass in the House and Senate, and this time Culver will sign it.

If passed, the bill would make radical changes to Chapter 20, which deals with collective bargaining for public employees. The bill would likely lift limits on what topics unions can negotiate in their contracts. The following is a list of things likely to be included.

– The establishment, procedures and criteria for assigning work shifts.
– The determination of the health insurance carrier.
– Cash payments for accumulated leave.
– Bonus payments.
– Frequency, methods, instruments, criteria of evaluations, and remedial employee performance plans.
– Preparation time.
– Class size.
– Discipline and discharge, including grounds for discharge and imposition of other discipline measures as well as the procedures for resolving disputes.
– Work uniforms and equipment.
– Staffing levels.

The reasons people oppose open-scope bargaining, is because property tax increases will be unavoidable. Municipal and county governments may be forced to hire additional police or fire fighters based solely on a union negation, not based on need. The same is true when it comes to class size; school districts may be required to hire additional teachers to obtain a certain student-teacher ratio mandated by the union.

The problem Culver and McCarthy are going have with this bill is: how on earth can local governments and school districts afford this? The state has already underfunded both, leaving them with two undesirable options, either cut services and teachers, or increase property taxes. Now, Culver and the Democrats will be putting them in an even more difficult situation as they will probably have to cut services AND increase property taxes significantly.

It sure doesn’t look like Governor Culver or Rep. McCarthy really give a rip. They have elections to win, and to do that, they need to take care of their union contributors.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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