• Posted on Mar 05, 2017

    Here's a close look at state Representative Walt Rogers and his statements about collective bargaining being "unchanged" in Iowa.  I first heard Rogers assert the point in Waterloo at the Feb. 25 GOP political forum, and again this morning on "The Steele Report" on KWWL.   

                Does Walt Rogers lie?  Or did the citizen who confronted him in Waterloo at the GOP Legislative Forum at VGM in Waterloo on Saturday, Feb. 25 lie? (For background see blog below this on.)  

                The citizen questioner at the meeting, a UNI faculty member, asked Mr. Rogers what Iowans were to make of the “gutting” of collective bargaining? Rogers immediately asserted that “collective bargaining has not changed.” 

                The audience reaction was swift:  booing, hooting, deriding.  Of course it had changed, the audience’s reaction was saying.  But Rogers went on to explain, and I paraphrase:  There’s so much misinformation out there, all of it wrong.   We did not change collective bargaining.  You can still bargain for anything that you want.  But you can only go to arbitration on wages.  All other issues are off the table when it comes to arbitration.  But bargaining (a.k.a. “discussions”) are still part of the process as always.   

                Incidentally, Rogers reiterated that point Sunday morning (3-5) on the “Steele Report” on KWWL.  So that’s his story, and he’s stickin’ to it. 

                But his story is dead wrong.   

                The following is from Mr. Rogers’ website, the “GOP Caucus Newsletter” for Feb. 23—the relevant paragraph under “Changes to Collective Bargaining.”

                “The bill does not outlaw discussions between employees and employers in regards to health care and a multitude of other issues.  Employees have protections against discrimination, harassment, retaliation or any other unlawful practices. It is already illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on based on protected characteristics such as basis of race, color, religion, age, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, creed, sexual orientation, sexual identity or disability. Iowa employers with four or more employees must comply with these laws. This bill does nothing to undo those protections.”

                “The scope of negotiations outlined in Chapter 20 only refers to the ability of a union to bargain those items with an employer. The changes in the bill have no effect on an individual employee’s rights to discuss or negotiate on their own accord with their employer about any topics they feel are imperative to their employment.”

                Sounds like all is right with the world, right?  Plenty of “discussions” can occur between employees and their employers on any subject. This was what Mr. Rogers must have meant when he insisted that “Collective Bargaining has not changed.”

                Here’s the problem: “discussions” and “bargaining” mean nothing without the possibility of an arbitrator, meaning an objective third party whose decision is binding.  The employer holds all the cards on all issues now (after the state GOP passed the legislation) except wages, and even then, raises are severely limited by a narrow formula. 

                In other words, you can go talk to the boss individually or collectively as a union, all you want— “discussions” are not outlawed.  But such discussions are not bargaining, since nothing can change as a result unless the boss wants it to. No one would call that real bargaining.   

                This is a massive, complete, global change in collective bargaining and don’t let Walt Rogers or anyone else tell you differently.

                Before this law, bargaining issues discussed at length between the Board of Regents and United Faculty at UNI included competitive salaries, health insurance, family leave, faculty evaluation issues and many others. They were being discussed for every contract precisely because if both sides could not agree, they would go to binding arbitration, and the arbitrator’s decision was final—and it could always go either way.  

                Both sides felt a powerful incentive to bargain for all they could, since they could lose in binding arbitration.  The more they could agree on before arbitration, the better for everyone. 

                So, bargaining was serious business, and it made all the difference to a wide variety of issues over the years from raises to summer employment to due process for grievances to the use of faculty assessments.   

                 Many of these issues were under discussion at UNI this fall until the new law took effect, and then they disappeared, taken off the table.  Only one page remained from dozens, and that was basically over the relatively minor raises that could still be negotiated.

                Walt Rogers either didn’t know what he was talking about, or he deliberately shaded the truth, to put it charitably.  Either way, it was another reason so many Iowans are upset with their GOP legislators. 

                The larger issue implied in all this:  Republican legislators seem unable to understand that they’re working against the short and long term best interests of their constituents.



    Go comment!

    • Posted on Mar 05, 2017


      A few takeaways from the GOP Forum at VGM which I attended on Saturday, Feb. 25 in Waterloo.

    • Conservative social proprieties were evident throughout the two-hour meeting: decorum, orderliness, hierarchy and authority (one man controlled the discussion for all two hours), religiosity, (they began with a prayer), patriotism (they also began with the Pledge of Allegiance and placed an open American flag on their table) and tradition—no signage, no disorder of any kind were allowed.  The message was:  we’re in control. 
    • No criticism of (m) President Trump* was allowed. When a young women asked about how anyone could support him, the moderator cut her off. 
    • Walt Rogers insisted that “collective bargaining has not been damaged” in his response to a UNI faculty member who insisted that the University’s United Faculty union’s bargaining rights had been gutted. When the hooting and loud disagreeing started, the moderator immediately shut them down.  This is a long argument that I’ll continue elsewhere.  (See “Did Walter Rogers Lie?” above) 
    • Several bills which are on the table in the current legislator may or may not get anywhere: allowing mentally ill people to purchase guns, the bottle/can deposit bill, capital punishment and others which have been part of the fabric of Iowa life for decades.  The message here was:  contact your legislators and tell them what you think.  (Unfortunately, the GOP’s recent track record of actually listening to constituents is utterly dismal.)
    • Waterloo City Council member Pat Morrissey told the panel that “Home rule has been eviscerated” by the legislature with their recent actions on a state minimum wage, civil rights, and other new initiatives.  Morrissey asked them why they would overrule a city’s initiatives to make life better for citizens—and that home rule was a big step toward doing that.  The panel had no real answers—Rogers citing competition as though it were bad. (And here I thought Republicans were all for free market competition—which home rule does encourage.)
    • One interesting exchange occurred between Justin Scott, a local atheist and activist, and Walt Rogers.  Scott asked if GOP legislators are basing legislative decisions on scientific evidence and not faith—using abortion as an example of faith-based objections that might become law.    Rogers insisted that religions do run institutions for the general good—such as hospitals.  “What’s the difference between a religiously-run hospital and religiously-run school?” he asked Justin Scott.    Scott gave no clear answer—and I wish he had:  It’s ideology.  A hospital, no matter who runs it, is bound to abide by health care rules and laws.  Their religious ideology makes no difference to the care of patients.  In a religious school, in contrast, religious ideology pervades everything—from classes to lessons to prayers during school hours.  This should be unconstitutional if supported by taxpayer dollars. 
    • How is the GOP going to avoid misusing their power?  Do they have any checks and balances in place other than their own good will?   When one party has all the power, very bad things can happen.  That’s the question that needs to get asked, over and over. 
    • The contrast between Friday morning’s Parkersburg town hall with Senator Grassley and this “forum” could not be more stark:  this one was controlled, managed so as to keep questions within narrow parameters, and clearly meant to show that the GOP is the party of tradition, authority, and control.  The Grassley town hall was exciting, engaging, freewheeling, and open to all thoughts of anyone on anything, and ranged from eloquent to silly and all points in between.  
    • Parkersburg was democracy in action; the VGM forum was the Iowa Republican party in action. 

    * (m) before President Trump serves as a reminder that he was elected by a minority of the electorate.  

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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