Iowa Republicans have a new union-busting bill

Tom Hayes, secretary/treasurer for LiUNA 177, speaks to an Iowa Senate Workforce subcommittee against a bill that would decertify unions if their employers don't submit a list of employees prior to union elections, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024.

By Amie Rivers

February 8, 2024

Labor advocates say a new Republican-backed bill that would force public employers in Iowa to submit a list of employees eligible to vote in their union election prior to each election—and, if the state doesn’t get it in time, they’ll decertify the union—is yet another union-busting tactic.

Senate Study Bill 3158, introduced by Sen. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood), would require each company or employer to “submit to the [Public Employee Relations Board, or PERB] a list of employees in the bargaining unit” within 10 days of a union recertification election.

If that list wasn’t received, PERB would “issue written notice of the failure,” and if the list was still not received a mere five days later, PERB “shall immediately decertify” the union.

Republicans and two out-of-state lobbying groups—Americans for Prosperity and Mackinac Center Action—say the bill closes a “loophole,” and claim PERB had not been getting that information in a timely manner from up to 41% of companies holding recertification elections.

But that problem had been fixed through an administrative rule, lobbyists for worker groups pointed out during a Wednesday hearing on the bill.

Thus, SSB 3158 reads as a bad faith attempt to punish “public sector unions for failing to take an action which is not within their control,” said Iowa Federation of Labor President Charlie Wishman.

“It would put additional and unacceptable requirements on public workers to enforce the law if an employer breaks it,” said Todd Copley, president of AFSCME Council 61, which represents a wide swath of municipal and school employees across the state.

“The short window that this law creates to file in court if a list is not provided”—that five-day window—”seems designed to set up Iowa’s working men and women to fail,” Copley added.

Union members “already have to struggle with doing recertification elections at the end of contracts,” an onerous process mandated by Iowa Republicans in 2017, LiUNA 177 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Hayes said. “Now you want to make them also responsible to make the employer follow the law.”

The subcommittee’s two Republican members advanced SSB 3158 to the full Senate Workforce Committee, with Todd Taylor (D-Cedar Rapids)—a former representative with AFSCME—the lone vote against it.

“We have other things that we could be focusing on to improve the lives of Iowans,” said Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association. “This is not a fight that we need to have right now.”

@iowastartingline “Since when does the average citizen have to pay to make other people follow the law?” #iowa #news #politics #union #workers ♬ original sound – Iowa Starting Line

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.



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