Iowa Teamsters head says statewide strikes possible to stop union-busting bill

Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 238, speaks at rally outside the Iowa Capitol to oppose an Iowa Senate union-busting bill on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Ty Rushing

February 21, 2024

Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 238, said everything—including strikes—are on the table if that’s what it takes to stop a union-busting bill that has worked its way through the Iowa Senate.

For about an hour on Wednesday, Teamsters members and their supporters circled the Iowa Capitol in various vehicles including semitrailers, and honked their horns to make their presence felt. Some vehicles had signs taped on them that read “Stop the War on Workers” and plane flying above the capitol carried a banner that read “Kill Senator Dickey’s Union Busting Bill.”

“Teamsters understand fighting, and when Teamsters fight, Teamsters win and we’re not going to take it anymore,” Case said.

Introduced by Sen. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood), SF 2374—formerly SSB 3158—would require each public 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.

Essentially, this bill puts the onus on public employers rather than unions themselves to submit a list of employees eligible to join the union to the state. If the state doesn’t receive this information in time, it will decertify the union.

Teamsters 238 is Iowa’s largest union and represents 12,000 employees in the public and private sectors. The public sector employees it represents, include law enforcement, county road crews, public works departments, and school bus drivers. Those are the members who would be in the crosshairs of this legislation.

“We’re looking at all options. We’re raising money right now to pay for any fines levied on us in case we do have strikes, but there’s other ways to do it,” Case said. “Let’s say you’re a water treatment person and you get a call at three in the morning that says, ‘The water supply’s going down,’ you’re not obligated to answer that call and that’s not a strike.

“It’s not a work stoppage because you’re not getting paid at three o’clock in the morning to answer your phone. In fact, it’s against the law to make somebody answer their phone if they’re not receiving pay.”

Case noted that many of Iowa’s public sector employees go above and beyond the call of duty to take care of their communities, but that could stop if  SF 2374 becomes law.

“We’re going to tell our members, ‘Stop working for free,'” Case said. “It’s there’s a blizzard moving in at three in the morning, you can go into work at seven or six or your regular scheduled time—call Senator Dickey to come plow your streets.”

The only organizations registered in favor of the bill are Americans for Prosperity and the Mackinac Center, two out-of-state conservative think tanks. The groups’ argument is that the bill closes a “loophole.” They claim PERB had not been getting that information in a timely manner from up to 41% of companies holding recertification elections, which union officials say was already resolved.

“They are national organizations that have an agenda to bust unions and they’re getting senators and reps to introduce legislation in different states across the country—it’s not just happening in Iowa—there’s a national agenda to bust unions,” Case said.

Case said the Teamsters are going on the offensive against this bill, especially after 2017 when the Iowa Legislature passed a different anti-union bill aimed at public-sector workers. He has not heard about much support for SF 2374 in the Iowa House, but Case is not leaving it to chance.

“We’ve been lied to before and we’re not going to stand around waiting to be lied to again,” Case said. “It’s a little bit like Lucy pulling the football from underneath Charlie Brown—we just don’t believe them anymore.”

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.



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