SERGEANT BLUFF | At least 31 bargaining units in Iowa, including one in the Sergeant Bluff-Luton school district, face decertification as a result of elections required by the state's new collective bargaining law.

An overwhelming number of city, county and school district employees, though, voted to maintain their union affiliation in preliminary and unofficial election results posted Wednesday by the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board.

PERB totals so far indicate that 26,965 employees participated in recertification votes that took place over a two-week period that ended Tuesday afternoon. Of those, 23,056 voted to keep their current union representation while 533 cast no votes in balloting required under legislation approved by the 2017 Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature.

Preliminary results indicate that 407 units agreed to keep their union affiliation, while 31 units did not achieve the required simple majority of eligible members covered under their current contract to stay certified and PERB has another 39 units to tabulate with final numbers expected on Wednesday.

According to the posted results, 40 Sergeant Bluff-Luton transportation workers voted to stay represented by Teamsters Local 554, but recertification required a simple majority of at least 51 votes. Three workers voted no. A total of 113 voters were eligible.

Unofficial results also show two unions in Cherokee County in danger of decertification after zero votes were cast in each election. Twenty-two secondary roads workers and 15 employees in the sheriff's office were eligible to vote.

Mike Cormack, a former legislator and current PERB chairman, said Iowa is one of only two states with a stipulation that eligible bargaining units who do not participate in the recertification balloting are counted as “no votes – a provision in House File 291 modeled after a Wisconsin law.

Bargaining units that will be dissolved once a 10-day appeal period expires because they did not garner the votes need to remain certified were spread throughout the state and includes school employees, bus drivers, public works and road workers, courthouse and public safety employees.

Under Iowa’s previous collective bargaining law approved in the 1970s, public-sector workers held votes to initially certify their unions as their paid representatives to negotiate contracts collectively. They only faced elections if one of their members petitioned for decertification.

But, the rewrite of Iowa’s collective bargaining law that was passed by majority Republicans and signed by former Go. Terry Branstad in February now requires that public-sector unions must recertify every time they face a new contract negotiation. If a local association is unsuccessful in its recertification vote, its contract is immediately considered void, according to the Public Employee Relations Board.

Eventually, all of Iowa’s 1,200 public bargaining units and more than 120,000 public employees will be involved in similar recertification elections. State employees will vote next year.

In each eligible Northwest Iowa school district, teacher unions voted overwhelmingly for recertification, with few, if any, dissenting votes.

The Sioux City Educational Support Personnel Association voted 328-3 to recertify, according to unofficial results. No results were listed by PERB for the Sioux City Education Association, which represents the district's teachers.

All 113 eligible voters for the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Education Association voted to keep their union, according to preliminary results. By a 128-7 margin, so too did members of the Le Mars Education Association. 

AFSCME and ISEA have filed separate challenges to the new legislation that stripped many of the bargaining rights Iowa public employees enjoyed under a previous law. A Polk County District Court judge has heard arguments in the AFSCME case is and his decision is pending, while a separate judge recently rejected ISEA’s motion for a summary judgment in a case challenging Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.

The Journal's Dave Dreeszen contributed to this story.

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