Trade unions brought us the 40-hour work week, paid annual and sick leave, health and safety regulations in the workplace, disability pay – and the very concept of the weekend. It is so important that we not forget all they have brought us all. They are also key to keeping quality employees. In the public sector, for example, when teachers or staff sit across the bargaining table, we should never underestimate the relationships, mutual respect and trust that are built. It is key to recruiting and retaining the best.
The Republicans in the Iowa Legislature gutted Chapter 20 public sector bargaining in the 2017 session and introduced clear union busting provisions. Have you ever heard of an election where there is both a supermajority requirement AND every member who does not vote counts as a “no” vote? Neither had I. If we want excellence in education and the public sector in general, we need to revive a functioning Chapter 20. Unions also play a key in private sector businesses and industries. Workplace safety, qualified workers and a livable wage are all at the top of their agenda.
Changes needed to revitalize Chapter 20 public sector bargaining:
- Eliminate “divide and conquer”: Public safety workers have been exempted from the changes to Chapter 20, but retain solidarity with others. This is a short-sighted approach. Teachers are just as important for our children and our future – and all too often, their safety. We must not devalue them.
- Reclaim current “permissive” bargaining items as “mandatory” bargaining items. Currently the only item mandatory for teachers and staff is base wages, to include hours, in-service training, leaves, seniority, grievance procedures, vacation, holidays, overtime, health and safety, association rights, and class size.
- Reclaim insurance as a mandatory bargaining item.
- Make permissive (currently excluded items that as recently as 2016 were mandatory): insurance, leaves for political purposes, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, evaluation procedures, early retirement, and staff reduction language.
- It is reasonable to cap bargaining at the level of funding that a school district is receiving. But that is no excuse for the State Legislature to underfund schools or push more responsibility to the counties and cities in a transparent attempt to break the back of unions or underpay teachers.
- Education is our future, and we need to treat and pay those who educate our young people as the professionals they are.
- Worker’s compensation/disability: Retain current standards; do not attempt to intimidate claimants by criminalizing a potentially incomplete claim. Return to pre-2017 standards with respect to disabilities and how they are categorized.