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Nathan Newman on February 1, 2007 - 9:51am
CO & IA Move to Modify Anti-Union Laws
In the last week, both Iowa's and Colorado's legislatures have moved to modify anti-union laws that undermine the freedom to form unions in those states.
In 27 states, unions and employers can include as part of a union agreement a provision that all employees benefiting from the higher wages and protections of a labor agreement have to pay fees for the administration of the contract, a so-called "agency fee shop." As part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, the federal government gave state governments the power to override such collective bargaining agreements and impose "free rider rules" (better known as "right-to-work" provisions) that allow employees to take the higher wages from the union contract, even demand the union sue the employer on their behalf to enforce the contract, yet not pay a dime to the union.
In Colorado, current state law is designed to block agency shop agreements by requiring a 75% vote of employees to approve one. The state House last week approved HB 1072, which would change the law to allow a simple majority to approve agency agreements without interference by state law. A Senate committee approved the law this week, making it likely it will soon advance for the Governor's signature.
Iowa has a more draconian law that prohibits agency shop agreements altogether. While the legislature is unlikely to overturn the law altogether, Iowa legislative leaders are considering a "fair share" law that would require non-union employees to pay for benefits they receive because of a union contract. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstall says the new law if enacted will require "free loaders...to pay your fair of the dues."
While corporate opponents keep trying to argue that weakening anti-union laws will undermine those states' economies, the reality is that worker pay is nearly 15% lower in "right to work for less" states than in the majority of states where the government doesn't interfere with collective bargaining agreements. New leadership in Colorado and Iowa hopefully means they will be joining the states with stronger unions and higher pay for their states' workers.
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