Iowa Democratic lawmakers propose eliminating union recertification elections

The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, where lawmakers are now meeting. (The Gazette)
The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, where lawmakers are now meeting. (The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Two years after the Republican-controlled Legislature mandated that Iowa public employees periodically recertify their unions, Democrats are proposing to eliminate the requirement, calling it unnecessary.

In October 2019, public employees recertified the unions representing them in 286 of 297 cases — 96 percent, according to the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board.

That tells Rep. Tim Kacena, D-Sioux City, a retired city firefighter, that public employees are satisfied and want to continue their representation. Requiring recertification elections is a waste of time and resources, he said.

The 2017 collective bargaining law required that bargaining unit members recertify their union representation ahead of each new contract negotiation — typically, every two or three years.

In some case, Kacena said, small schools operate on one-year contracts, which requires those unions to have recertification elections each year.

“It’s not needed any more,” he said. The requirement in the law that was opposed by all Democrats in the House and Senate “went too far.”

However, House Labor Committee Chairman Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, called it “very unlikely” the GOP-controlled House will take up House File 2075, which was filed by Kacena and 37 other Democrats.


Democrats and their union allies claimed the recertification requirement was “an impossible hill to climb,” Deyoe said. “We’ve learned it wasn’t.”

The outcome of recertification votes over the past two years has “proven that they’re not necessary,” Kacena said.

Republicans didn’t expect unions to be decertified, Deyoe said.

“The key is giving people a chance to vote on their representation,” he said.

Across the rotunda, Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, last year introduced Senate File 200to remove the requirement for retention and recertification elections unless the Public Employment Relations Board has not previously conducted such an election since the union was originally certified.

The bill has not advanced beyond a subcommittee hearing.

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