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Unions should cooperate with Branstad

June 26, 2012
Messenger News

Iowans seem to rarely agree with their Wisconsin neighbors on politics. And never on football.

Gov. Terry Branstad used the Wisconsin governor's recall victory to repeat his request for benefit concessions from state organized workers.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker found electoral redemption in Tuesday's recall election, winning with margins bigger than his 2010 election. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism analysis concludes Walker gained support in 53 of the 59 counties he won in 2010. And he picked up another, giving him 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

Even with Walker's solid victory, Branstad emphasized he will pursue state worker benefit reductions the old-fashioned way, not by purging state unions.

"I ran on and was elected on (the idea that) state employees should pay 20 percent of their health care costs," he said. "I believe that should be done, but I think that should be done through the bargaining process, and I intend to work in good faith with the unions to accomplish that."

Branstad's stated intent to pursue negotiated concessions instead of waging political war should relieve Iowa voters of all political stripes. The slash-and-burn Walker method incensed partisans, decimated the Legislature and swapped governance for protracted campaigns that sucked millions out of the state economy.

Walker's pursuit of popular and sensible wage and benefit concessions got pirated by out-of-state special interests waging a national war over collective bargaining.

Campaign spending in the 2010 Wisconsin governor's race hit $37.4 million. The recall campaign frenzy is expected to total $80 million when final disclosures are made.

In the aftermath, many Republican leaders nationally began figuratively writing obituaries for state unions.

Not Branstad. Satisfied with Iowa's Right to Work law prohibiting mandatory union membership, the Iowa governor again said out loud he will use the collective bargaining process to pursue benefit concessions.

Predictably, state AFSCME Director Denny Homan slammed the governor: "Terry Branstad ought to be bargaining with us in good faith at the bargaining table and not in the press."

The last governor never made it to the bargaining table. Chet Culver acquiesced to union wage and benefit demands and signed a contract with little negotiation.

Branstad has been transparent and consistent in his position: State workers need to pick up 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. To us, that is a bargaining position, not grandstanding or politicking.

Iowa's AFSCME members can be thankful for a governor willing to negotiate instead of obliterate collective bargaining agreements.

- Quad-City Times, June 11



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