WATERLOO — A new wave of changes resulting from the passage of a state collective bargaining law will soon ripple across the Cedar Valley.
The law, enacted Feb. 17 after being passed by a Republican-led Legislature, set up a process for public labor unions to recertify their units by holding an election ahead of a new contract negotiation.
With the first contracts expiring June 30, 2018, the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board has set dates for two waves of elections this month and again in October.
The board, which only has authority to oversee the Chapter 20 code, held an informational meeting Wednesday in Waterloo to discuss what employers, employees and unions will need to do to prepare for those elections.
“We’ve never run this sort of election,” said Jasmina Sarajlija, an administrative law judge with Iowa PERB.
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She explained the elections using the example of Teamsters.
“What we’re asking employees in these elections is ‘Do you wish to keep Teamsters as your representative?’ And we have to run it every time there’s a new contract negotiated, and it’s triggered by the expiration date,” Sarajlija said.
An estimated 13 bargaining units, with 1,300 potential voters, will have an election beginning next week. Another 553 units, with 37,361 potential voters and representing nearly half of the state’s public units, will vote in October.
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Those voting in October have a contract expiration date of June 30; the ones voting in September have an expiration somewhere between July 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2018. Sarajlija said the reason for having the earlier expiring contracts vote later is simply due to the sheer number voting and needing more time to get the voting systems in place.
Voting in September will be by mail-in ballot during the period of Sept. 12-26. No local public employees unions will vote in September.
The October voting will take place through the phone and computer during the period of Oct. 10-24. Several area unions, including some from Waterloo and Cedar Falls schools, will vote during this period.
More information about who will vote and about recertification is at https://iowaperb.iowa.gov/recertifications.
Sarajlija stressed one of the changes is potential voters include all employees covered under the contract — not just members — and those who choose not to vote will be counted as opposing recertification.
Employers have an obligation to ensure their employees know about the upcoming elections, and unions also are allowed to inform them.
The about 50 people who attended the forum had several questions about how the process would work. Sarajlija answered most of them, but a few showed how new the law was for the board as well as public employees.
She said, for instance, she wasn’t sure what would happen to those unions who lose recertification votes if lawsuits against the legislation prove to be successful.
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The questions, though, stayed mostly focused on the upcoming elections, rather than the substance of the law that has been heavily criticized by union members.
That was thanks in part to the explanation from Iowa Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, who opposed the law change but explained PERB’s role in enforcing it.
“In fairness to them, they’re stuck with the mess they got handed,” Dotzler said.