# Iowa State Education Association

Exclusive: Labor relations board shifts staff, cases to other agency. Is it legal?

Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is transferring most of its staff and caseload to the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Since the mid-1970s, PERB members and administrative law judges have adjudicated labor disputes within state and local government or school districts. Following the changes, administrative law judges now working for PERB will handle other matters, while other employees at Inspections and Appeals will hear cases that were previously in PERB’s jurisdiction.

State officials have not announced the changes, which are scheduled to take effect on September 30. It’s not clear who initiated or authorized the plan. Staff in the governor’s office and Department of Inspections and Appeals did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries over the past three weeks. PERB members Erik Helland and Cheryl Arnold likewise did not reply to several emails.

State Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat with extensive experience as a labor attorney, has asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an official opinion on whether “it is an illegal shift of an essential PERB duty” to assign its responsibilities “to an unrelated state agency.”

Boulton also asked Miller to weigh in on the legality of Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent appointments to PERB. As Bleeding Heartland previously reported, Reynolds has circumvented the Senate confirmation process by keeping one of the three PERB positions unfilled, so she can name her preferred candidates to a vacant slot while the legislature is not in session.

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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.

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It’s time for the education and medical communities to unite

Bruce Lear proposes several ways Iowa’s doctors and teachers could cooperate to advocate for safe conditions in schools. -promoted by Laura Belin

It’s been a summer ride. First, there was a tingle of unease. Then there were questions, and more questions, left unanswered. Later, the Iowa Department of Education issued a vague, incomplete statement. Finally, the governor issued a proclamation filled with hype instead of hope. It was the summer of angst for parents and for educators.

Now, it’s time to stop defining the problem and start trying to solve it.

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