To the editor:
I have been silent too long. It seems like I am becoming a cranky old man, so I have tried to keep still about the malicious action taken by Rep. David Deyoe, Sen. Bill Dix, Rep. Rob Bacon, Sen. Jerry Behn and Rep. Chip Baltimore.
But I am now dealing with public employees who are going to suffer from the theft of their employment benefits due to the work of this Gang of 5 and their cohorts. I represent some of the public employees in central Iowa, and as they are trying to negotiate concerning their wages and other benefits, they are being told the public employer will no longer negotiate about many of the benefits they have received over the 40 years of the existence of the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act. This is due to the Gang of 5 stealing their rights to these benefits.
Many of those benefits were obtained by negotiating in good faith over the years. From time to time, workers agreed to trade off some wages in exchange for other benefits. And the public employer was usually in agreement with that trade. That’s what negotiating is all about.
But this year, the legislature, led especially by Rep. Deyoe, stole those benefits from the public employees, with the help of other Republicans in the legislature. Now, not only are the benefits gone, the wages they traded off are gone, too. These legislators should not be able to sleep at night. If they can, that tells you a lot about their character.
If you think you are safe because you are a police officer or a firefighter and they saved you from the thievery, realize you are next.
If you work at Iowa State University and aren’t in the affected bargaining units, this will soon have an effect on you, too, as the employer will feel pressure to make things equivalent among its employees. The entire community will feel the economic loss.
When teachers, nurses, DOT workers and city and county workers have to pay for benefits, such as keeping up licenses with continuing education, steel-toed shoes and other safety equipment, or special drivers’ licenses, when employees are no longer allowed paid leave for deaths or sick leave for births, it will drag the whole local economy down. The retail businesses will not sell as many cars and clothes and groceries. McFarland Clinic and Wolfe Clinic will be affected. Health care is one of the first places to cut discretionary spending. And the best employees in various occupations will leave for Minnesota or California or wherever they can find a better place to work. Someplace that welcomes them and is willing to reward their value. Someplace not governed by the top 1 percent like the Gang of 5.
Dennis W. Parmenter