Legislation that would overhaul collective bargaining in Iowa is far from perfect. It's rushed for political expedience. It's chock-full of carve-outs that create first- and second-class public employees. It's still unclear how one-size-fits-all health care insurance would adequately serve a workforce that includes state scientists and school maintenance workers.
No, the proposed sweeping limitations to Iowa's Chapter 20 collective bargaining law aren't ideal. But, at the end of the day, the amended version, rolled out Tuesday by Republicans in Iowa Legislature, are an improvement over the original pitch.
In the political reality of the moment, this new bill is worth supporting.
The original draft would have gut collective bargaining for unions representing state and local employees. Basically all but base wage would suddenly literally be off the table, essentially robbing the vacation days and other benefits that are key to negotiations and define the worker/management dynamic. It would have left employees without course to challenge wrongful terminations. It would have imbalanced the public sphere, while giving short shrift to hundreds of thousands of public employees.
On Tuesday, lawmakers reacted to the countless calls, emails and chants rising from protests throughout the state.
The amended package would reinstate bargaining for grievance procedures, seniority benefits and release time. It would permit court challenges to Civil Service Commission decisions.
Even the most vocal opponents to the GOP move to limit union power admit that the amendments are an improvement over the original draft.
No one should be surprised that Republicans instantly moved to rollback worker protection and throttle unions after seizing complete control of the Statehouse. It's the conservative cause celebre right now, kicked off in Wisconsin in 2011.
Fact is, the partisan rush-job -- a clear attempt to limit statewide rage -- walked blindly into traps that should have been obvious from the outset. Take, for example, the new cut-out for transportation employees. They'd be on par with cops and firefighters, under the amended draft. Not doing so could cost Iowa millions in federal funding. Wisconsin and Michigan learned this lesson years ago.
Quelling criticism with speed clearly took precedence over research here.
It's disingenuous to act as if political motivations aren't front and center in all of this. Unions amass thousands of foot-soldiers every election cycle, typically for Democrats, that knock on doors and spread the message. Unions themselves are massive campaign donors. Republicans can only win by the union decline seen in Wisconsin after collective bargaining was rolled back.
But, all that aside, the taxpayer does stand to gain from the overhaul. Health care costs annually spike, particularly at local government and school districts. And, year after year, union power ensures it's the taxpayer that picks up most of the tab. A single, statewide health care cohort equates to better rates and a better deal for taxpayers.
Republicans won total control in November. This is a central party platform at Statehouses throughout the country. And, in all likelihood, Iowa's version will pass easily within days if not hours.
The first draft was a poorly conceived bill. It's improved after a series of amendments. And taxpayers can be counted among the winners when it happens.
Right now, that's the best anyone can hope for.