Republicans failed again to break Iowa's largest teachers' union

When Iowa Republicans eviscerated public sector bargaining rights in 2017, they hoped to break the state’s largest labor organizations by creating new barriers to union representation. The law requires public employees to recertify their union in each contract period, which is usually two or three years. To be recertified, the union needs a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit to vote “yes.” Anyone who does not vote in the recertification election is deemed to be a vote against the union.

No members of Congress or statewide officials could be elected in Iowa if candidates needed a majority of all eligible voters to win, and non-voters counted against each candidate.

But for five years in a row, Iowa’s largest public-sector unions have won an overwhelming majority of the recertification votes. The Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) announced on October 26 that recertification passed in all 78 of its bargaining units that held elections this year.

Those associations have more than 11,000 employees combined and include large school districts (Johnston, Linn-Mar, West Des Moines, Southeast Polk) as well as small ones (Hamburg in the state’s southeast corner, with around 150 students enrolled). Educators want union representation not only in blue counties but all over Iowa, even in the most heavily Republican areas (Boyden-Hull in Sioux County).

The law has forced labor organizations to spend resources every year on recertification campaigns, but it has not meaningfully reduced union representation of Iowa’s public employees. In a statement, ISEA President Mike Beranek hailed the “strong and determined professionals who will not back down from what they know is best for their profession, their students, and their schools which is representation at the bargaining table, in classrooms, and in the profession.”

I’ve enclosed below the full list of education associations that recertified this month.

Appendix 1: October 26 news release from Iowa State Education Association

Statement by ISEA President Mike Beranek on Recertification Elections

100 PERCENT!!!

“We are enormously proud of the thousands of education professionals who overwhelmingly voted in favor of their professions by successfully passing recertification in their locals.

ISEA members and their colleagues took time out of their busy schedules –despite a myriad of distractions and worries currently consuming their workplaces, to vote in favor of recertification. The votes today – and since the law passed in 2017 continue to loudly and firmly tell the Iowa Legislature and the Governor that public employees want their collective voice represented by their union. 

More than 11,000 public education employees in 78 local associations were impacted by this vote.  After the two-week period of recertification, 100 percent of ISEA locals successfully voted to retain the ability to collectively negotiate a Master Contract!

Iowa’s anti-union bill passed by the Republicans in the statehouse in 2017 requires a 50 percent plus 1 majority of all employees covered by the bargaining unit to win recertification and anyone who fails to participate in the election is automatically counted as a “no” vote.  Despite this onerous standard, 78 out of 78 ISEA locals passed their recertification elections.

This is the fifth year of recertification elections, and the fifth year of sweeping victories. Requiring a local association to vote at the end of every contract is just another obstacle the legislature placed in front of Iowa’s public employee unions in an attempt to weaken our strength. Once again, this obstacle was overcome by the strong and determined professionals who will not back down from what they know is best for their profession, their students, and their schools which is representation at the bargaining table, in classrooms, and in the profession.

We are very proud of Iowa’s public education employees who continue to stand strong. Day after day, public education employees do great work for their students, their schools, their professions, and their communities.”

The ISEA represents preK-12 educators, education support professionals, community college faculty, Area Education Agency professionals, retired educators, and aspiring educators with contracts covering more than 50,000 employees. We promote quality public education by placing students at the center of everything we do while advocating for education professionals.

Appendix 2: List provided by the Iowa State Education Association of the 78 locals that recertified in October 2021

Adair-Casey Comm EA
Adel-Desoto-Minburn EA
Allamakee Comm EA
Audubon EA
Belle Plaine TA
Belmond-Klemme EA
Bondurant-Farrar EA
Bondurant-Farrar EA ESP
Boone EA
Boyden-Hull EA
Boyer Valley EA
Burlington EA
Camanche EA
Center Point-Urbana EA
Central City EA
Central Clayton EA
Central DeWitt EA
Central Springs EA
Clear Creek-Amana EA
College Comm EA
Columbus EA
Coon Rapids-Bayard EA
Creston EA
Danville EA
Davis Co Comm EA
Denison EA
Dubuque EA
English Valleys EA
Fort Dodge EA (Associates)
Fort Dodge EA (Teachers)
Fort Dodge SCEA
Fort Madison EA
Griswold Comm EA
Guthrie Center EA
Hamburg EA
Heartland EA
Johnston EA
Johnston ESPA
Lawton-Bronson EA
Linn Mar Service Association
Lone Tree EA
Louisa-Muscatine EA
Madrid EA
Marion CA
Mason City EA
Mediapolis Comm EA
Melcher-Dallas Comm EA
Midland EA
Monticello EA
New Hampton EASG
North Scott Bus Drivers Association
North Scott EA
North Scott Education Support Professionals
North Tama Co EA
Odebolt-Arthur-Battle Creek-Ida Grove EA
Oskaloosa EA
Panorama EA
South Central Calhoun EA
South Hamilton EA
South Winneshiek EA
Southeast Polk EA
Southeast Warren EA
Stanton EA
Tipton TA
Union EA
Van Buren County EA
West Branch EA
West Central Valley EA
West Des Moines EA
West Des Moines ESP
West Hancock EA
West Liberty EA – ESP
Western Dubuque EA
Williamsburg EA
Winfield-Mt Union EA
Winterset Comm EA
Woodward-Granger EA
Woodward-Granger SSA

Top image: Graphic posted on the Iowa State Education Association’s Facebook page, encouraging employees of bargaining units to vote yes in the recertification elections.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin