MASON CITY | More than 200 people rallied Saturday in Mason City against proposed legislation to that cuts collective bargaining rights for public workers.
Waving pro-worker signs and sayings, they filled the middle of Central Park for about an hour of speeches — all aimed at Republican-backed legislation critics say guts collective bargaining in Iowa.
Roger Hunt, of Nora Springs, said the changes attack laws that have been working for 40 years.
"They're creating problems that don't need to solved, because it's working," said Hunt, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Introduced last week, the 68-page bill limits what workers — with the exception of some public-safety workers — can bring to the bargaining table, changes arbitration rules and alters how unions are certified.
Other than police officers and firefighters, collective bargaining for public workers would be restricted to only base wages.
Public workers would no longer be able to bargain for insurance, hours, vacations, holidays or overtime compensation.
It also eliminates the ability for unions to collect dues via payroll deduction.
"What we would be allowed to bargain for is so miniscule compared to what we are now," said Central Springs teacher Dawn Haacke, a rally goer.
She was one of several at the rally who told a Globe Gazette reporter they were a teacher or in an education-related field.
In addition to union representatives, the crowd — which overflowed the center gathering spot in the park — also included a number of firefighters, ambulance crew members and state transportation workers.
The rally was organized by Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City; Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City and Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City.
Supporters of the changes say the bill gives employers more ability to reward good workers and fire bad ones, as well as giving more control to local officials and government boards.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has said the changes make the law favorable to all Iowans.
Rally-goer Bonnie Burnett, of Mason City, had a different perspective.
Burnett, who isn't in a union, believes the restrictions would be a step backward for the state.
"It's discouraging and it's detrimental to our state," Burnett said. "And, it's scary."
A public hearing on the legislation will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the State Capital in Des Moines.
It will be livestreamed in the Capitol rotunda and online.