Guest Columnist

For public workers, a different election is also shaping Iowa this fall

Thousands of public employees are voting in union elections to keep their collective voice

Members of Laborers and Operating Engineers union display posters expressing their opposition to proposed changes in Iow
Members of Laborers and Operating Engineers union display posters expressing their opposition to proposed changes in Iowa’s laws governing collective bargaining between Iowa governments and public employee unions before a public hearing Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, at the Capitol in Des Moines. Rod Boshart/The Gazette

Turn on the TV and it’s impossible to ignore the election coming up Nov. 3. But there’s another election in Iowa that starts this week, and it also will have a big impact on the future of our state.

Across Iowa, thousands of public employees are voting in union elections to keep their collective voice for fair pay and the staffing necessary to serve Iowans. These union recertification elections were created in 2017 by far-right groups and their legislative allies wanting to silence the voice of our public employees and weaken their unions. To keep their union voice at the bargaining table, it’s not enough for workers to win a majority of people who vote in their election, they have to win a majority of all the workers covered under their contract. In other words, workers who don’t vote get counted as a no vote. This is a ridiculous threshold for success.

Many thought Iowa’s workers wouldn’t clear that very high bar, but they’ve voted overwhelmingly to keep their union voice. In 2017 and the years since, workers have joined together and won these elections despite the stacked deck against them. What these elections are showing is that Iowans, given the choice, want the rights and the protections and the voice that come from uniting in a union.

And that makes sense to me. Before being elected to the Legislature, I worked with Iowa’s unionized health care workers. I saw how caregivers in a union have a strong voice to speak up for their patients. I was also a union member and felt firsthand the security that comes from joining with your co-workers.

The push to take away the union voice of Iowa’s public employees has always been wrong. But the unfairness of it is becoming even more clear this year. Right now, many of the essential public service workers who’ve kept Iowa going during the COVID-19 pandemic have their recertification vote. Included in the vote are workers at the University of Iowa as well as nurses and staff at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, the municipal workers of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, the public employees of Linn and Johnson Counties, state workers in the departments of transportation, corrections and human services, as well as some school employees in area districts. All of these public employees have worked hard to keep Iowa safe and going during the pandemic and in the aftermath of the derecho.

To honor these workers, we can’t give them lip service in speeches while manipulating the law to try and take away their unions. We need to stand with them so they can keep standing up for Iowa.

If you’re a public employee and have a recertification vote this year, Please Vote Yes by going to https://vote.yeselections.com/iaperb/ between Oct. 13 and 27. If you have a family member or friend who is a public employee and has a recertification election, encourage them to Vote Yes to support their colleagues and strengthen their voice.

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Thank you to our front-line public employees for the work you do every day for the citizens of our state. Please know Iowans support you and will work as hard as we can to insure you have a voice in your future.

State Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt of Cedar Rapids represents District 69 and serves on the House Labor Committee.

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