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University of Iowa Health Care union ratifies ‘strongest contract’ in years
The contract will include a 6% total raise over two years
IOWA CITY — The union representing 3,800 University of Iowa Health Care workers has announced the ratification of its “strongest contract for our members in Iowa since the changes to Chapter 20 in 2017.”
Referring to the Legislature’s stripping of collective bargaining rights six years ago — limiting mandatory negotiations to wages alone for most public unions — the Service Employees International Union Local 199 on Wednesday evening shared its new contract will include a 6 percent total raise over two years.
The contract, according to SEIU, removes maximum salary caps, guarantees salary minimums, and “continues union protections in the workplace at UIHC.”
“When we fight, we win,” union representatives posted on social media.
The union’s previous two-year contract expiring June 30 did not increase minimum salaries and provided returning employees a 1.3 percent pay raise in each of the contract’s two years — totaling 2.6 percent over the term.
To start negotiations in January, the union — representing 3,871 UIHC employees, including nurses, therapists, and other health care workers — asked for a 14-percent pay raise the first year, followed by a 12 percent increase the following year.
The union also wanted the board to work back into its contract terms tied to vacation, extra time compensation, and safety in the workplace — among other things.
The board declined to budge from its original offer of a 1.5 percent minimum raise and 3 percent bump for returning employees in each of the next two years — declaring an impasse when union representatives didn’t initially accept the offer.
That declaration, initially, prompted the union to file a prohibited practice complaint against the state Board of Regents with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board.
“The board cannot simply ‘declare an impasse,’” attorney Emily Schott Hood told board negotiators on behalf of the UIHC union in an email at the time. “My client had room to move on mandatory subjects of bargaining, so I’m not confident that we meet the legal definition of impasse. It’s disheartening to see that your client is refusing to bargain in good faith.”
Despite that discord, negotiators this week celebrated hard-fought wins.
“Your bargaining team fought hard in negotiations to press the regents on the need for changes — higher wages, guarantees of safer staffing ratios, safety procedures that meet the growing trend of violence against health care workers, and more — and were met with silence or dismissals,” according to a SEIU Facebook post.
“We are not done fighting, BUT we also recognize the need for celebration after such a hard fought win as this contract. This could not have happened without members working hard in and outside the workplace to spread awareness, and showing up in the cold and wind to picket.”
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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