Culver vetoes bill backed by unions

Governor Chet Culver’s staff sent out an advisory early this afternoon saying the governor would hold a 4 p.m. news conference today "to discuss outstanding legislation."  It meant Culver had made a decision on legislation which would expand the bargaining rights of government workers in Iowa who are members of a union like AFSCME (the American Federation of State, Council & Municipal Employees) or ISEA (Iowa State Education Association — the teachers’ union).

At 3:30, when someone sent me a text message asking if Culver would sign or veto the bill, I sent this reply:  "Depends if he calls heads or tails on the coin flip."  As recently as yesterday Culver said he hadn’t made up his mind on the bill. At 4:15 p.m., Culver walked into the statehouse conference room to make his veto announcement.  You can listen to the entire news conference here (the mp3 runs 13 and a half minutes).

Statements then were issued by legislators as well as the ISEA.

The top three Democrats in the legislature — Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Hosue Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines — issued this statement: "We are incredibly disappointed by the Governor’s veto of legislation that would have improved the lives and the standard of living of hard-working teachers, police officers, firefighters and correctional workers who are on the front lines everyday.

"After full debate in the House and Senate, we had hoped the Governor would approve these modest but important changes to our collective bargaining law that would have brought Iowa in line with 27 other states and the private sector.

"We repeatedly offered to consider changes to the bill and not a single suggestion was offered by Governor Culver or his administration. We continue to believe that employees with a strong voice in the workplace will lead to greater productivity and we will continue to work on behalf of teachers, firefighters, police officers, correctional workers, and other public employees."

The top Republican in the Iowa House — House Minority Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City — praised Culver in a written statement:  "I am pleased that Gov. Culver did the right thing and vetoed the bill that guts Iowa’s collective bargaining law. Culver took the time to have an open discussion about the bill, unlike his Democrat counterparts in the House and Senate.  Culver standing up to his own party illustrates how truly awful this legislation was and how out of touch the House Democrats were with Iowans."

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate — Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City — also issued a statement:  "How bad is this union special interest-backed bill that a Democrat Governor has to veto it? Senate Republicans worked hard to inform Iowans about this legislation, going to extraordinary lengths by staying in caucus for more than 26 hours before Easter weekend to highlight how bad this bill was for Iowa’s school boards and municipal governments, and most importantly Iowa’s property taxpayers.  I think sensibility has won out."

Linda Nelson, president of the Iowa State Education Association — the state teachers’ union, issued the following statement:  "We are deeply disappointed by Gov. Culver’s veto of HF 2645. This legislation would have leveled the playing field for educators and other public employees at the bargaining table. It would have allowed us to negotiate over issues that impact student achievement like class size, preparation time, in-service, and a whole host of other topics that under the current law are deemed "permissive" and off-limits for discussion. While we appreciate the Governor’s support for funding public schools and for making teacher salaries competitive, he missed a great opportunity to recognize educators as true professionals and full partners in educational decision making. We are committed to working with Gov. Culver to craft a bill which accomplishes that objective."

The Republican Party of Iowa was next to issue a statement, attributed to Caleb Hunter, the party’s executive director: “Today the Governor vetoed one of the worst bills to come out of the Iowa Legislature in decades. Despite organized labor’s contribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Legislative Democrats and their candidates, the people of Iowa spoke in a voice louder than the sum total of those contributions. I applaud the Governor for listening to the will of the people of Iowa. This November organized labor and their accomplices in the Iowa legislature will hear Iowans voice their will at the ballot box.”

As of 5:50 p.m., nothing from AFSCME.  Nothing from the Iowa Democratic Party either.

Culver did throw a curve ball at Republicans with another veto today.  He vetoed pay raises for himself and other statewide elected officials.  Culver’s pay raise would have been 9.7 percent.  The pay raises for the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, ag secretary, treasurer and auditor would have been 23.6 percent.  In late April Culver had indicated he was "likely" going to approve those raises, but Culver said today (on three different occasions) that he had changed his mind.

UPDATE: This came from AFSCME after I tracked down AFSCME lobbyist Marcia Nichols by phone shortly after six o’clock this evening: Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, says it is unfortunate that Governor Culver chose to veto HF 2645-the expansion of public employee bargaining rights.  “This bill, simply put, allowed front line workers to bring their concerns about their workplaces to the bargaining table – current law limits their input. We regret that the Governor chose to take a different route.”

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and other public employee groups advanced this initiative in the 2008 legislative session hoping to broaden the communication lines at the collective bargaining table.  “AFSCME represents 40,000 public and private sector workers some of which have rights in the private sector that are denied to public workers” stated Homan “this bill would have leveled the playing field for all parties involved in negotiations.”

AFSCME will continue to push for public employee collective bargaining reforms in future sessions.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Frying Fish says

    Veto of Collective Bargaining Bill and the Pay Raise, all in one day! His staff doesn’t look so dumb now, do they.
    Boy, former Governor, now just regular ol’ Senator Gronstal, goes from wielding the whip to receiving the lashes, all in one session.
    Culver could pull the “hat trick” and make Gronstal his subordinate forever if he line-item vetoes the provision that allows cities to steal the local option money for “special development projects” without a vote of the people.
    Elesha Gayman, McKinley Bailey, Swati Dandekar, Tom Hancock and all other Democrat legislators sure look like fools now. So extreme even a Democrat Governor has to publically repudiate them by his veto.