Iowa, the home of union-ally Sen. Tom Harkin (D) and the first state to have a crack at presidential contenders, has become a battleground of sorts over whether public unions will gain the right to require public workers throughout the state to pay union "representation fees."
All public employee unions could charge nonmembers fees for services under an amendment introduced Monday to broaden an already controversial labor bill.
The bill being debated by the House is now limited to employees in the executive branch of state government.
If the amendment is adopted, the bill would extend to employees of Iowa's cities, counties and public school districts.
Currently, Iowa is one of 22 Right-to-Work states, which means that unions cannot legally require employees to pay union dues; whereas in the 28 Non-Right-to-Work states, unions can require workers to pay union dues (or have them fired if they refuse).
If the measure passes, it is estimated that unions may reap up to $5.3 million in fees from workers who may suddenly be required to pay the unions. It is also reasonable for Iowans to be concerned that, if unions are successful in eliminating the right-to-work status of state workers, the next step will be an attempt foist forced dues from private-sector workers as well. In fact, this seems to be the 'camel's nose in the tent' for Iowa's unions to take that next step:
"You would not expect to get fire protection without paying taxes. ... Then why would you expect union representation in matters of collective bargaining, arbitration and grievances without people paying their fair share?" said Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council. "I don't think it's in Iowa's character to expect something for nothing."
While the debate in Iowa rages on, an e-mail from one union boss calling a state worker a 'scab' has fed fuel to the fire of right-to-work advocates.
State worker Joe Anderson said Monday that he thinks that even if nonunion workers are required by law to help pay their "fair share" for certain union services, they would still face discrimination from union officials.
Anderson, who joined the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees last fall after 13 years of saying no to membership invitations, e-mailed two AFSCME officials asking for their advice on a work issue.
Union leader Danny Homan responded: "A scab, take your time responding to him."
Homan intended that email for a union field representative, but he mistakenly copied it to Anderson.
Anderson, an agent for the Iowa Department of Transportation, said: "I know Homan wants to paint the picture that they're providing all these services for nonunion members and they're doing it for free. To me, it's a perfect illustration that they're not."
He also asked, "Does this sound like a man, and an organization, that can be trusted to give nonmembers their 'fair share' of union services? Does anyone truly believe that a 'fair share' fee will change the way Homan and the union treats nonmembers?"
House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Homan's e-mail, which was meant for AFSCME field representative Adam Swihart, appears to be asking Swihart to treat Anderson differently from dues-paying members.
"That is illegal," Paulsen said. "Public-sector unions are compelled to represent everybody in the bargaining unit equally and without prejudice as to whether they're a dues-paying member."
Homan repeatedly apologized in his written statement. "I apologize to all AFSCME-covered employees, member and nonmember, and this was unbecoming of someone in my position. Our response to workers in need is not something that I take lightly," he wrote. [Emphasis added.]
In most cases, as the saying goes: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.”
However, in the case of this union boss, it appears that integrity is something that only comes about when an e-mail is sent to the wrong recipient.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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