Profs threaten to leave state if Iowa restricts union rights

Legislators in Iowa have introduced a bill that would dramatically curtail the privileges of higher education labor unions.

House Study Bill (HSB) 84 changes the rules for union members, including education unions, with regards to collective bargaining, tenure, and salary.

One component of the bill, for instance, would ban professors from taking a leave of absence to attend political events, while other provisions eliminate employment advantages and perks based on seniority.

While the bill is still in its infancy, having just gone through its first committee hearing Wednesday, many public sector employees, including those in higher education, have expressed significant concerns about the bill’s implications, according to Inside Higher Ed.

[RELATED: Grad students waste no time unionizing after NLRB ruling]

In a survey conducted by a University of Northern Iowa’s faculty union, 82 percent of professors said they would consider leaving the school if their collective bargaining rights are rescinded, and fully 97 percent opined that collective bargaining is important for their morale.

Several respondents compared the proposal to legislation passed by Wisconsin in 2011 eliminating collective bargaining for public-sector employees, which led to an unsuccessful recall election to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“Republicans said they were just going to tweak a couple things in the legislation on collective bargaining, but this isn’t tweaking,” complained Joe Gorton, president of the UNI faculty union. “We won’t be able to negotiate on evaluation, we won’t be able to negotiate on reductions in force or staff cuts or grievance procedures or health insurance—all these things are [off] the table.”

[RELATED: Union fights campus privatization to protect its benefits]

The Gazette reports, however, that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has already expressed support for the legislation, declaring at a press conference Tuesday that “For too long, unions’ special interests have routinely won over the taxpayers.”

Indeed, Democratic state rep. Todd Taylor observed that HSB 84 is very much in line with the GOP platform, which calls for eliminating public sector unions entirely.

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