As predictably as the sun rising in the East, the bosses for Iowa’s government unions and their liberal allies are warning of the sky falling and promising political retribution after Republicans passed collective bargaining reform. As they do whenever the power of union leadership is threatened, they insist the reformers are anti-worker, which is an odd argument to make given the new law will prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues out of worker paychecks and will give workers more rights to decide whether or not to be represented by a union at all.
Worker choice is always opposed by unions that claim to represent the interests of these same workers because this new freedom inevitably leads to workers choosing to stop paying union dues. This diminishes the political clout of union leadership which uses about 40 percent of member dues to support Democratic political candidates and left-wing causes that many, if not most, union members oppose. Contrary to the political threats issued by union bosses against supporters of reform, taxpayers, including many union workers, tend to reward politicians who take a stand against compulsory union membership.
At Freedom Foundation, we know from our personal conversations with workers at their doorstep that most would prefer to keep the money they currently pay to their union rather than let the leadership spend it in support of politicians and causes with whom they disagree. Since we began informing workers in Washington State of their right to opt out of union dues, over 10,000 have chosen to do just that, costing the local SEIU more than $10 million that would otherwise be spent largely on partisan politicking.
Look no further than Wisconsin to witness the hollowness of the political threats made by the union bosses. Shortly after taking office with Republican majorities in 2011, Gov. Scott Walker set out to address the state’s budget crisis by reforming a major cost driver of the state’s enormous deficit – exploding public employee compensation, pensions and health care costs which was the inevitable result of collective bargaining between powerful government unions and the politicians they helped elect.
Liberals claimed Walker and his GOP allies had given them a political gift that would mobilize their base and return Democrats to power in Madison, so they attempted to send Walker packing in a recall election.
But a funny thing happened: Walker was reelected by a margin greater than his original victory. In the meantime, newly-empowered government employees chose to abandon the unions in droves. Private-sector workers followed suit after Walker and Republicans passed right-to-work legislation in 2015. Similar scenes were repeated in Michigan.
With their dues-financed political war chests decimated, union boss clout withered and Donald Trump became the first Republican since Reagan to win both states. And it was relatively strong support from union households that helped deliver those victories to Trump.
There’s a saying that good policy makes good politics. If that holds true in Iowa, Republican reformers can expect to be rewarded politically for standing up to union bosses who have for decades taken advantage of their members and the taxpayers in order to accumulate power in Des Moines.