Teachers in some Iowa school districts and community colleges will find out this week whether they will continue to be represented by a union.
It’s part of Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that makes it harder for public sector unions to operate in the state.
Teachers in 13 public schools and community colleges have been voting by mail since September 12 on whether to keep their union representation. They are the first to fall under the new law’s requirements forcing the periodic recertification votes. It used to be automatic for union representation to remain in place.
Mike Cormack at the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board says voting will end Tuesday afternoon. Board staff will then count the mailed-in ballots.
“Observers are welcome to come see,” Cormack said. “We’ll lay the ground rules for how the vote will be conducted.”
Fifty-percent plus one of all the teachers must agree for union representation to continue, whether or not the teachers are union members.
Anyone not voting will be counted as a no vote.
Roughly 475 public sector bargaining units will face recertification votes next month. That ballot will involve 34,000 public sector workers employed by the state, counties, cities, and schools.
Eventually the recertification vote will be conducted for all of Iowa’s more than 1200 public sector bargaining units.
“This is the first time in Iowa history we've done a recertification election,” Cormack said. “We are doing as much diligent preparations as we can for it.”
The Iowa State Education Association has been visiting the affected schools, educating teachers about what’s at stake.
“Losing recertification for a local bargaining unit means the current contract they are working under becomes null and void immediately,” ISEA president Tammy Wawro said in a statement. “That means that all employees of that school district lose the ability to even bargain base wage much less have a voice in their professional environment.
“There are differing opinions on that,” Cormack countered.
Both Cormack and Wawro predicted that if a union recertification vote fails, courts could be asked to decide whether it’s legal to void the current contract.