In Iowa, police officers and firefighters who voted for Republicans are having second thoughts, since the GOP is currently fighting public workers’ rights with a bill to bust up unions. Police officers, teachers, and fire department employees claim the GOP is trying to defeat union workers by dividing them into two groups — “public safety” and “non-public safety” — with only those classified as public safety maintaining the rights to collective bargaining.
The proposed changes would strip away collective bargaining rights from a majority of public employees who wouldn’t be classified as public safety. Opponents of the change in classification say the GOP wants to divide the groups because voting against police officers and firefighters would be unpopular for public opinion.
Unfortunately for Iowa Republicans, the police force and fire departments aren’t buying into the plan to divide and conquer. According to Iowa Starting Line, hundreds of helmeted firefighters, as well as police officers, descended on the Statehouse over the last week to voice their opinions at committee hearings.
Is The GOP Biting The Hands That Fed Them?
The irony is that most of those protesting the move to strip away collective bargaining rights voted Republican in the last election and now say their vote and their confidence has been betrayed by the GOP. One of the most vocal protesters at the meetings was police officer John Thomas from Mitchellville. He noted that the Sheriff’s departments could be affected and re-classified as “non-public safety” because many of those workers are jailers and clerks, and the proposed changes would classify a group based on the nature of the tasks of the majority. By that standard, with the majority of employees as jailers and clerks, that could mean that Sheriff’s deputies might not be classified as public safety workers.
Regardless, the police officers and firefighters in the meetings don’t want to see anyone’s bargaining rights taken away, as Thomas noted.
“It’s collective begging, that’s what it is. Half of law enforcement folks I work with are Republicans. And we voted for Republicans because of conservative values. But we didn’t vote for Republicans to get stabbed in the back while we’re trying to dodge cars and bullets.”
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Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew, a Republican and former aide to Governor Terry Branstad, who is one of the supporters of the bill, also spoke out against the proposed changes according to Radio Iowa. He told the Iowa Senate that he’d been in law enforcement for over 36 years, and spent most of it in the field rather than in management, and he stands firmly for collective bargaining because he says it works. He also made it clear that dividing public workers into two classifications and keeping police officers’ and firefighters’ bargaining rights intact wasn’t going to divide the whole group as they had hoped.
“We stand as one. It is important to stand together because what you may take or give us or let us stay in — the firefighters and public safety — two years from now we may be out. So we stand as one for the right reason because collective bargaining and Chapter 20 works.”
— Carmen Bartolotta (@DemBartolottas) February 14, 2017
Will The GOP Suffer In The Next Election Because Of Union Busting?
Jody Butler also served Governor Branstad for nearly five years as his education policy advisor, and like Drew, she was there to speak out against the bill, citing its “demoralizing” effect on the profession of teaching and noting the irony that after spending so many years working with the governor to improve schools, this bill would strip away much of that progress. She also put the GOP senators on notice that if they pass the bill — which is expected to pass along party lines with a GOP majority — she and her family would remember when the next election comes around.
“My step-daughter, my son-in-law are teachers in Marengo, in Iowa Valley. They used to vote Republicans, but I know now, given this, that will never happen again. The teachers union consists of Democrats, Republicans and ‘no parties’ just like the rest of the state of Iowa. Folks, this is really, really divisive.”
[Featured Image by Charlie Neibergall/AP Images]