Collective Bargaining Rally in Des Moines Brings Teachers to Tears

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  A bill making its way through the Statehouse could change the day-to-day lives of nearly 200,000 public workers in Iowa.

There will be a public hearing Monday night at 6 p.m. at the Iowa Statehouse over major changes to the state's collective bargaining provisions. The Republican-led plan would strip away nearly everything unions can negotiate for workers except for their pay, which has a lot of union activists up in arms.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people held a rally outside the Capitol to protest the impending changes.

"At some point I will no longer be able to afford to be teaching your students, spiritually and emotionally, just as much as financially, if this is how the state values my worth," said one teacher at the rally.

The bill has widespread support among Republican lawmakers, who have a majority in both chambers, and the bill could reach Governor Terry Branstad's desk as early as this week. Supporters say it's a necessary update to a 40-year-old law, putting bargaining power back in the hands of employers and ultimately saving the state money.

"You don't modernize Chapter 20 by eliminating the rights of teachers to talk about their health insurance," said State Senator Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines).

Though in the minority, Democrats stood with rally-goers to show their support.

"We have to be able to deal with policy. We have to deal with standing up for what's right," said State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines).

The issue has quickly become a hot topic of debate across the state. Just Saturday, a fiery debate was incited at a public Republican legislative forum in Ankeny. Democratic lawmakers are hoping those who are unhappy with the new bill will help them at the polls in 2018, perhaps giving them control over at least one chamber once more.

"I think there are a multitude of things that could do that. But I want to caution individuals to focus on policy and not get caught up in emotion," said Abdul-Samad.