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Democrat rolls out organized labor bills

Construction-Labor PhotoState Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) has introduced a pair of bills that has organized labor in Iowa quite happy this past week.

The first would require a state agency to “consider using a project labor agreement” in large-scale construction projects. The second would authorize the collection of “fair share fees” in collective bargaining agreements.

House File 30, which has backing from the Heavy Highway Contractors Association and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 234, would also establish criteria state agencies must take into account in their decision-making processes. Those criteria include:

  • the potential for a labor disruption, such as a strike, lockout, or slowdown, which could affect the timely completion 28 of the project,
  • the number of trades and crafts anticipated to be used on the project,
  • the need and urgency of the project and the harm to the public if the completion of the project is delayed,
  • the size and complexity of the project and the time needed for its completion,
  • the benefits to the public from the use of a project labor agreement relative to a project’s cost, efficiency, quality, safety, and timeliness of completion, and
  • the ability to ensure compliance with all applicable state laws and rules governing safety and health, equal employment opportunity, labor, and employment standards.

The legislation defines a project labor agreement as “a comprehensive pre-hire collective bargaining agreement that is negotiated between a project’s owner and an appropriate labor organization and sets out the basic terms and working conditions for that particular project.” Under a project labor agreement:

  • all contractors and subcontractors will be bound to the agreement,
  • all contractors and subcontractors may compete for work without regard to whether they are otherwise parties to collective bargaining agreements,
  • no strikes, lockouts, or similar job disruptions, will be allowed,
  • effective, prompt, and mutually binding procedures for resolving labor disputes during the term of the agreement will be established, and
  • mechanisms are provided for labor-management cooperation on matters of mutual interest and concern, including productivity, quality of work, safety, and health.

A large-scale construction project is one in which construction, rehabilitation, alteration, conversion, extension, repair, or improvement of a “vertical public works project,” including buildings or other real property, where the total project cost is $25 million or more.

Master Builders of Iowa opposes the bill.

House File 18 amends Iowa Code section 20.9 to provide that collective bargaining negotiations must include negotiating whether a “fair share fee” will be charged to non-members of an employee organization. Iowa is a right-to-work state in which employees are not required to be members of labor unions in order to work.

While the bill doesn’t require workers to join labor unions as part of their employment, it does require them to choose between union membership and paying “fair share fees.” The bill also only applies to new hires after the date of enactment, if the legislation becomes law.

HF 18 also creates a new section of Iowa Code, 20.9A, which establishes procedures to follow if a “fair share fee” is included in a collective bargaining agreement. The law would effectively provide labor unions with employee lists to check against their own membership rolls to determine which ones should pay the fees, and how much those fees should be.

The bill states that “fair share fees” cannot exceed the cost of employee membership in the labor union. The fees shall not include costs of the union that are not relevant to collective bargaining, contract administration, the adjustment of grievances, and the pursuit of wage disputes or matters related to conditions of employment.

HF 18 also provides that non-members be given an annual notice of the amount of the “fair share fee” and their rights as to challenging the amount. Non-members shall be permitted to challenge the amount of the fee at an impartial hearing before an arbitrator appointed by the American Arbitration Association in which the labor union will have the burden of proof relating to the amount of the fee.

The proposed legislation is supported by the United Professionals/UE, the International Union of Operating Engineers-Local 234, and AFSCME Iowa Council 61. The Iowa Hospital Association has declared its opposition to the bill.