Nominee becomes collective bargaining 'casualty'

Iowa Senate rejects Cormack for Public Employment Relations Board

Mike Cormack

PERB nominee
Mike Cormack PERB nominee

DES MOINES — In a carry-over from last year’s bitter legislative fight over an overhaul of Iowa’s collective bargaining law, minority Democrats on Thursday rejected the reappointment of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ choice of Mike Cormack to lead the state’s Public Employment Relations Board.

Senators voted 27-20 in favor of Cormack’s nomination to serve as chairman of the board that oversees employment disputes, legal questions and public employees’ union recertification votes.

The outcome failed to meet the two-thirds majority — 33 votes — needed for confirmation.

A total of 26 GOP senators and one independent were yes votes, while 20 Democrats were opposed and two Republicans were absent.

“Mr. Cormack is nothing more than a casualty along the lines of the war you started,” Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, told majority Republicans who made major changes to public collective bargaining laws.

Bisignano said Cormack’s management of the recertification votes was part the “massacre” of public employee bargaining rights — a process set up under the controversial 2017 rewrite of Iowa’s collective bargaining law that the GOP-led Legislature passed and former Gov. Terry Branstad signed.

Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, said GOP lawmakers were responsible for changes in the law that “did a lot of harm to our state” by giving public employees fewer rights.


But, he said, PERB officials took it a step further by making it harder to participate in union recertification votes and “floating the idea and trying to push through a registration process to prevent (union) voters from casting their ballots, throwing up more hurdles than the Legislature had done last year.”

Sen, Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who guided the collective bargaining bill through the Senate a year ago, spoke favorably of Cormack’s performance as a fair and evenhanded board chairman the past four year. Previously, Cormack had served four terms as a Republication representative in the Iowa House.

“Mr. Cormack has done nothing to not be confirmed,” Schultz told senators during his floor remarks.

“If he is to be a casualty of the war that we started, that can be agreed to because Mr. Cormack has done nothing to lose this job,” Schultz added. “He did his best in an incredibly difficult situation.”

Also Thursday, the Senate did not take up the nomination of Robert Brownell, a Republican on the Polk County Board of Supervisors, who Reynolds had appointed to the Iowa Council on Human Services.

At Brownell’s request, the governor withdrew his name from consideration Thursday and requested the appointment be deferred until she selected an appropriate replacement.

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