Iowa Regents didn't bargain in good faith with UNI faculty, UI grad students

The state broke Iowa law by refusing to negotiate in good faith when the Iowa Board of Regents delayed contract talks with unions representing University of Northern Iowa faculty and University of Iowa graduate students in late 2016 and early 2017, the Public Employee Relations Board determined in separate rulings last week.

Following the 2016 election, when it was clear Republicans would have total control of state government, United Faculty and the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) attempted to negotiate new contracts for their members, following a bargaining schedule used in previous years.

But the governing body for Iowa’s state universities instructed its attorney not to engage in such talks until after GOP lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad had eliminated most public employee bargaining rights under Iowa Code Chapter 20. Bruce Rastetter was the Regents president at the time. He didn’t seek reappointment by Branstad in 2017, as it was clear Iowa Senate Democrats would have blocked his confirmation.

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Tricia Gavin challenging Charles Schneider in Iowa Senate district 22

Republican State Senator Charles Schneider coasted to re-election in 2016. He defeated his Senate district 22 challenger Andrew Barnes by more than 4,000 votes after spending only a token amount on the race. In fact, Schneider gave most of his own campaign funds ($133,000) to the Iowa GOP for use in more competitive state Senate districts.

Schneider drew his first declared challenger for this cycle on June 11, when Tricia Gavin announced her candidacy. At least one other Democrat is seriously considering this race, so Schneider’s general election opponent will not be known until after the June 2020 primary.

Given recent political trends in the western suburbs of Des Moines, it’s already obvious that Senate district 22 will be a top Democratic target next year.

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Planned Parenthood on track to receive sex ed grants

Two Iowa state agencies announced on May 31 an intent to award Planned Parenthood of the Heartland sex education grants for the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

Republican lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation seeking to deny Planned Parenthood access to the federally-funded Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Program (CAPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grants. However, a Polk County District Court put that provision on hold this week, saying Planned Parenthood was “likely to succeed on the merits of its equal protection claim” under the Iowa Constitution.

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They turned back time

Bruce Lear floats ideas on how to start repairing the damage from Iowa’s 2017 collective bargaining law, a “devastating step back in time” for public sector employees. -promoted by Laura Belin

It was a time of bell bottoms, shiny shirts, and men with shoulder-length hair. Disco was born, and Vietnam escalated. Nixon visited China; Americans loved the tv shows All in the Family, M*A*S*H, and Sanford and Son. It was America prior to 1974.

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Divided Iowa Supreme Court upholds collective bargaining law

“Our role is to decide whether constitutional lines were crossed, not to sit as a superlegislature rethinking policy choices of the elected branches,” four Iowa Supreme Court justices said today in two rulings that upheld the 2017 collective bargaining law.

The state’s two largest public employee labor unions, AFSCME Council 61 and the Iowa State Education Association, had challenged the law, which eliminated almost all bargaining rights for most public employees but preserved more rights for units containing at least 30 percent “public safety” employees. The ISEA also challenged a provision that banned payroll deduction for union dues.

Justice Thomas Waterman wrote for the majority in both cases, joined by the court’s three other most conservative judges: Edward Mansfield, Susan Christensen, and Christopher McDonald. His ruling upheld two Polk County District Court rulings in 2017.

Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justice Brent Appel dissented from the AFSCME decision, joined by Justice David Wiggins. Appel wrote a partial concurrence and partial dissent in the ISEA case, joined by Cady and Wiggins. They would have allowed the state to end payroll deductions for union dues but struck down the part of the law that gave more bargaining rights to some workers than others. They highlighted the statute’s “illogical” classification system, under which many who receive the expanded privileges are not themselves “public safety employees,” while others “with obvious public safety responsibilities” are excluded.

Had the late Justice Daryl Hecht been able to consider this case, these decisions would likely have gone 4-3 the other way. However, Hecht stepped down while battling melanoma in December, shortly before the court heard oral arguments. Governor Kim Reynolds appointed McDonald to fill the vacancy in February. Normally new justices do not participate in rulings when they were not present for oral arguments, but the court would have been deadlocked on these cases otherwise. So file this disappointing outcome for some 180,000 public employees under E for “elections have consequences.”

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Iowa teacher salary dollars go unspent

Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, has closely followed contract negotiations in public schools for many years. -promoted by Laura Belin

This is the time of the year when “bargaining season” wraps up for Iowa’s teachers. Under the collective bargaining law in place for more than 40 years, most local unions would have either reached a voluntary agreement with their school board or be headed to mediation, or possibly arbitration.

Unfortunately, the bargaining law enacted in 2017 has changed this pattern. Now, local teacher groups can only bargain their base salaries and have limited abilities to seek help through the arbitration process. Consequently, many school boards across the state are offering teachers “one-time” increases in pay with no advancement on a salary schedule. Those increases are often so little that when combined with the additional costs of health insurance, many teachers will be taking home less money in 2019-20 than they did this year.

School officials will say that minimal pay raises stem mainly from a lack of state government support. They are correct that Iowa schools have received historically small increases in state funding over the last eight years. However, some school districts have managed to accumulate a large “pot” of money that can only be spent on teacher salaries, and for some reason, they aren’t spending it.

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