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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Anti-union bill clears committee on party-line vote, despite legal problems

After an hour of legal arguments about complicated legal problems with the bill, the Senate State Affairs Committee has voted 7-2, along party lines, to approve SB 1007, legislation targeting labor unions by prohibiting them from subsidizing wages to aid contractors in winning bids. "The reason we brought this bill is to level the playing field," declared Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, and nine other GOP lawmakers. "This bill is about freedom, it's about freedom to protect our workers and our workforce. This simply adds to and enables us to enforce Right to Work."

Idaho already is a Right to Work state, in which union membership can't be a condition for hiring. Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said only 7 or 8 percent of Idaho's workers now are union members. "They have that choice," she said. "Whether we agree or not with labor unions and what they do with wages, they've chosen to do that, and they need to be protected too. ... I think this bill doesn't allow for the level playing field that everybody keeps talking about."

Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, said he'd just sat through "an hour of listening to foreign language" about all the legal problems with the bill, and the likelihood of litigation. "In the best interest of looking out for the state, I don't have a comfort ... right now in proceeding with a piece of legislation that has the likelihood of going to court," he said. He moved to hold the bill in committee, but that motion failed on a 2-7 vote; the original motion from Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, to send the bill to the full Senate with a "do-pass" recommendation then passed on a 7-2 party-line vote. A companion bill with the same list of sponsors and co-sponsors, SB 1006, banning "project labor agreements" in public works contracts, already has cleared the committee and is up for a vote in the full Senate as soon as today.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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