Courts reject legal challenges to Iowa collective bargaining law

Two Polk County District Court judges have dismissed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. Although the plaintiffs are likely to appeal the rulings, the bar will be high to convince four Iowa Supreme Court justices the state had no rational basis to enact changes affecting some public employees more adversely than others.

I enclose below the court rulings and key points, along with reaction from leaders of AFSCME Council 61 and the Iowa State Education Association, which filed the lawsuits earlier this year.

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GOP law fails to break Iowa's largest public-sector unions

One of the most transparent union-busting provisions of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law has failed to significantly reduce the number of workers covered by the state’s two largest public-sector unions: the Iowa State Education Association and AFSCME Council 61.

Unofficial results posted today by the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board show large majorities of public employees voted to continue to be represented by their unions.

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IA-Gov: Prichard's exit points to challenges for others in field

State Representative Todd Prichard suspended his campaign for governor yesterday, saying “my responsibilities to my family, the Army, my constituents, as well as my small business must take priority over the many hours a day it takes to raise the sums of money required to run successfully.”

Fundraising difficulties were also a key reason Rich Leopold, the first declared Democratic candidate for governor, ended his campaign in June. The same challenge may lead one or more of the remaining seven Democrats in the field to leave the race before the filing deadline next March.

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IA-Gov: Andy McGuire has her work cut out for her

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa Democratic Party donors and activists than in their attitude toward Dr. Andy McGuire as a candidate for governor.

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa pundits and activists than in their assessment of McGuire’s chances to become the Democratic nominee.

Since McGuire rolled out her campaign three weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how she might persuade enough rank-and-file Democrats to support her in a crowded gubernatorial field. I’m stumped.

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Read the teachers union lawsuit against Iowa's collective bargaining law

The largest labor union representing Iowa teachers and its Davenport affiliate filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the constitutionality of House File 291, which eliminated almost all collective bargaining rights for teachers.

I enclose below the full text of the initial Polk County District Court filing. Scroll down to read comments Iowa State Education Association President Tammy Wawro delivered at a press conference, which you can watch here.

Like the lawsuit Iowa’s AFSCME chapter filed in February, the new lawsuit targets the unequal treatment of two classes of workers under the revised Chapter 20, which governed collective bargaining here for more than four decades. “Public safety” workers will be able to keep bargaining over a larger range of subjects, while other public employees can negotiate only about a handful of subjects, primarily base pay. ISEA maintains that this division violates Article I, Section 6 of the state constitution, which stipulates, “All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

In addition, the ISEA is challenging the law’s two biggest union-busting provisions: a ban on automatic payroll deduction for union membership and political contributions, and procedures that will make it harder for public unions to stay certified. ISEA holds that the payroll deduction ban also violates the uniformity clause of Article I, Section 6, because such deductions will be allowed for other professional associations or organizations. In addition, the lawsuit charges that by creating “an undemocratic election system” for unions representing public workers, which “counts votes based on population instead of number of votes cast,” the law violates the substantive due process guarantee of Article I, Section 9.

Attorney General Tom Miller is not defending the collective bargaining law, to “avoid any questions about a potential conflict.” The state retained the Belin McCormick law firm to handle legal challenges. At the end of this post, I enclose the motion filed to dismiss ASFCME’s lawsuit; the defense against ISEA’s suit will make the same arguments.

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Todd Prichard officially exploring run for governor (updated)

Saying Iowa needs “new vision,” “fresh leadership,” and “better than what we have seen during this legislative session,” State Representative Todd Prichard announced today that he is “considering” a gubernatorial campaign. The rollout leaves little doubt that Prichard will eventually join the Democratic field. His campaign website now features a Todd Prichard for Governor campaign logo. His “leadership team” includes heavyweights like Marcia Nichols, former political director of AFSCME Council 61; Brad Anderson, who ran Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa; former Iowa Democratic Party state chair Sue Dvorsky; and State Senator Bob Dvorsky.

I enclose below Prichard’s news release and background on the candidate from his website. Last month Prichard discussed his life experiences and values at a Democratic gathering in Des Moines; you can read or listen to that speech here. Prichard talked more about his work and thoughts about a 2018 Democratic campaign message with Iowa Starting Line. Prichard has a political page on Facebook and is on Twitter @RepPrichard.

Two other Democrats launched gubernatorial campaigns earlier this year: Rich Leopold and Jon Neiderbach. (Neiderbach spoke to the Northwest Des Moines Democrats group on March 21, and Bleeding Heartland will soon post excerpts from his stump speech.) Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire is widely expected to announce a gubernatorial campaign in the coming months.

UPDATE: Prichard spoke at the Our Future–Iowa Starting Line event in Des Moines on March 23. Here’s the full audio, for those who want to listen.

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