Another stab at back-door repeal of Right To Work

The greatest battle in the Iowa Legislature last year may be one that never happened. The majority Democrats had a proposal to allow public-employee unions to negotiate for the right to charge a service fee to nonunion workers. The plan, nicknamed "fair share," passed the Senate and headed to the House.

And that's where it died. Democrats canceled debate when they were unable to line up the 51 votes needed for passage. Republicans, who had planned to use stall tactics to make the debate last for days, declared victory.

Now legislative leaders are trying to decide whether they want to take another stab at the proposal this year. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, doesn't know what will happen. "This controversy has been around a long, long time and it will continue to be around," he said on Friday.

Pro-business groups have pushed hard against fair share. They argue the proposal would undermine the state's right-to-work law, the decades-old statute that bans mandatory union membership.

"No one in the public sector or in private industry should be forced to join a union or pay dues or fees to a union in order to get or keep a job," said a statement from Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

On the opposite side of the issue, labor union leaders say the bill would improve a system in which some public employees get the benefits of union membership without paying union dies. Mark Smith, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, frames the issue in terms of fairness.

"There is no other organization that has to provide services and not get paid for it," he said.


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