Unions push back on Iowa bill that would add new recertification requirement

Despite impassioned objections raised by unions representing public employees, a three-member subcommittee of the Iowa Senate Committee on Workforce on Wednesday advanced to the full committee a proposed bill that would add a new hurdle to the recertification requirements for collective bargaining units.

Several representatives of public employee unions voiced opposition to the proposal, saying it would penalize employees for the actions ― or lack thereof ― of their employers.

The bill, Senate Study Bill 3158, would amend legislation passed in 2017 that requires collective bargaining units to hold recertification votes about 10 months before the expiration of their existing contracts ― typically, every two or three years. In the balloting, workers are asked to say whether they want to retain their current union representation.

Unions fought the original bill, saying it added an unnecessary barrier to the contract process. The new bill would add an additional wrinkle, requiring the employer to provide a list of employees in the bargaining unit within 10 days of receiving notice from the Public Employee Relations Board of a recertification election.

If the employer fails to submit the list, PERB would issue a written notification. If the list isn’t provided within another five days, PERB would immediately decertify the union. The union would then need to petition in court to require the employer to submit the list.

Union representatives attending Wednesday’s hearing cried foul, saying the bill would put too much responsibility on employees to correct the employer’s failure to respond. They also contended the proposed legislation could put additional burdens on PERB and the court system.

“It would put additional and unacceptable requirements on public workers to enforce the law. If an employer breaks it, the short window that this law creates to file in court if a list is not provided seems designed to set up Iowa’s working men and women to fail,” said Todd Copley, president of ASCME Council 61.

“Public employees can do a lot. We take on a lot. Our members drive your kids to school, make sure your roads are clear, and keep our communities safe. But it’s a little too much to ask that we work our jobs and manage our managers as well,” Copley said.

Peter Hird, secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Federation of Labor, said the recertification process should be ditched altogether.

“People are the unions and attacks like this are an attack on the people of those unions,” Hird said.

Michigan conservative think tank defends recertification requirements

Andy Conlin, testifying in support of the bill on behalf of Mackinac Center Action, an arm of Michigan-based conservative think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy, defended the process, saying that for workers, recertification elections are “essentially a performance evaluation on their union.”

Unions “know that they’ve got to go to a vote of their members, so they need to provide value for the dues that they’re getting,” Conlin said.

Nathan Arnold, representing the Professional Educators of Iowa, said his organization was registered as undecided on the proposal, but questioned whether having to go to court was the appropriate remedy if an employee is not filed. He suggested defining the failure to provide the required list be deemed a prohibited practice.

“I think that would be enough to incentivize compliance without having to go to court,” Arnold said.

Melissa Peterson, speaking for the Iowa State Education Association, said recent rulemaking addressed failure to submit the employee list by levying a penalty on the employer.

“So why we would penalize the employee organizations when it’s the employer organizations you apparently are trying to make sure comply is beyond my understanding,” Peterson said.

Republican Sens. Jason Schultz of Schleswig and Adrian Dickey of Packwood voted to move the bill to the full Committee on Workforce, with Democrat Todd Taylor, a retired staff representative of AFSCME, in opposition.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa bill adding to recertification requirements unneeded, unions say

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