Dubuque rally for collective bargaining rights - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque rally for collective bargaining rights

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Union members and supporters rallied Sunday in Washington Park.

A new Dubuque group called Citizens for Labor Justice organized the rally. Organizers said they wanted to bring attention to Republicans' efforts to scale back unions' collective bargaining rights.

The rally comes just nine days after the Iowa House passed a bill that would cut some rights, if Senate approves.

Dave Baker is the Eastern Iowa director for Teamsters Local 120 in Dubuque.

"I thought it was great that other people in the community are rallying behind workers that are under attack, not only in Madison, Wisconsin, but in Des Moines and in other states, as well," Baker said. "Unions have set the bar in a lot of areas, in regards to employment: paid vacations, holidays, 40-hour work week, and, still, we fight every day for our members."

Speakers at the rally included Dubuque city councilwoman Joyce Connors and Democratic state representative Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque).

"We're going to fight to protect workers' rights in this state as much as we can," Murphy said. "We don't even have open-scope bargaining for public sector employees, so they have a very limited number of things they can negotiate on, and Republicans want to take that away in this state."

On his way to Des Moines, Republican Rep. Steve Lukan (R-New Vienna) said of the bill, "There'd still be a list of 30 items that can be bargained for or negotiated for...What we really did in the Iowa bill was just try to strengthen the taxpayers' seat at the table and, I think, allow management some new flexibility."

The bill includes eliminating seniority, giving arbitrators more flexibility and charging state employees at least $100 a month for their health care, which Republicans say takes some of the burden off taxpayers.

"I really feel the bill that we debated in Iowa last week is worse than what the Wisconsin Legislature passed, and it's unfortunate that we wasted that much time on partisan bickering, now that the Senate is probably going to kill it," Murphy said. "Once you deny people their rights, it's very difficult to get them back."

The Iowa Senate is Democrat-controlled with a 26-24 majority.

"Taxpayers really are demanding a hard look at the public sector pay and benefit scale, and I think it's something we shouldn't be scared of doing," Lukan said.

Both sides say, this is not a fleeting issue.

"Whether it's dealt with this session or not, I think voters ask for this, they're going to continue to insist that something be done," Lukan said.

Baker said he's happy to see raising awareness.

"I'm hoping that there's more rallies, more get-togethers like this," he said.

Iowa established its original collective bargaining law in 1974.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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