Iowa Teacher Unions Gearing up for Decertification

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Teacher union other public sector union officials are gearing up for battles as annual recertification elections take place in Iowa beginning tomorrow. Jason Noble has the story in the Des Moines Register Online.

Starting Tuesday, individual bargaining units around the state — representing public school teachers, city snowplow drivers and county sheriff’s deputies, among many others — will vote on whether to continue or dissolve their union affiliations, many of which have been in place for decades.

The yes-or-no elections are one immediate and ongoing consequence of the sweeping labor reform law enacted by Republican lawmakers earlier this year. In addition to sharply limiting the items public sector unions can bargain over, the new law requires local unions to conduct and win recertification elections ahead of every new contract.

That means employees must vote to continue their union representation potentially every couple of years from now on. The elections happening in September and October represent the first wave of that new mandate.

Iowa state Rep. Dave Deyoe, who played a key role in passing the collective bargaining bill as chairman of the House Labor Committee, said periodic recertification votes will ensure unions serve the workers they represent.

“It’ll make the unions more answerable to their members,” said Deyoe, R-Nevada. “A lot of times they took it for granted that they had the support of their members. For a lot of members, they’re now going to see a union that’s a lot more responsive to their concerns.”

Thirteen local unions representing nearly 1,300 educators from the West Lyon school district in far northwest Iowa to the Danville district in the southeast will begin voting Tuesday.

Previously, unions remained certified unless employees voted to decertify them. Many have been in place since public sector collective bargaining was enacted in the 1970s.

Labor leaders say the rules governing these elections were intentionally written by GOP lawmakers to make recertification onerous. In the most significant guideline, unions must win a majority of all employees covered by the contract — not just a majority of those who vote.

That means that employees who do not vote are counted as “no” votes and that, for example, in a 100-person union, a 49-1 vote would count as a loss for the union.

In the event of a loss, an existing union will be immediately decertified, rendering its current contract unenforceable and preventing workers from negotiating collectively on another one. Following a decertification, a new union could not be formed for two years.

Additionally, labor groups must pay the cost of conducting the election, creating a new, ongoing cost for unions with each expiring contract. PERB has set the cost at $1 per eligible employee.

Among those facing recertification in September is the Ballard Education Association, the union representing about 125 teachers in the Ballard Community School District in southern Story County.

Association President Laurie Moore, a middle school literacy and science teacher, said she and other union members have been sending emails, going classroom-to-classroom in the district’s four buildings and giving presentations at staff meetings to remind teachers of the looming election.

“I’m fairly confident that everyone knows it’s coming up,” Moore said. “Now I’ve just got to work to make sure everyone actually votes.”

To that end, the union is handing out sample ballots, and plans to take the first real ballot they receive this week into each school to demonstrate the process for voting it, sealing it in its security envelopes and returning it.

Retired teachers, Moore said, are making posters, leaving treats in the teachers’ lounges and planning to make phone calls whipping the vote in the coming days.

 

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