Iowa’s Republican-led government made it a priority earlier this year to limit the ability of unionized public sector workers in the state to collectively bargain.
But state lawmakers quickly learned that hardworking public servants weren’t going to back down from this fight.
After a new law was enacted in February, workers in October were forced to revote on whether to remain in their union. The odds were stacked up against organized labor. A majority of workers in each unit needed to vote “yes” – non-voters would be counted as a “no” vote due to the ridiculously undemocratic supermajority rules in place. But when it came time to cast their ballots, Teamsters made it clear that they are proud to be members of the union family!
Local 238 ran 69 state-sponsored recertification elections for 2,200 bargaining unit members in October.
Of the 1,888 members who voted, 1,828 voted to remain with the Teamsters. You read that right – 97 percent of them voted yes! As a result, only 44 dues-paying members were included in units that didn’t achieve the required supermajority.
“We looked at it as an opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with our members on how the political process effects them and their communities,” said Jesse Case, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 238. “It was an opportunity to educate our membership and discuss not only what the legislature was doing to collective bargaining, but to their families at home.
Most Remain Union
Other unions were also successful in their efforts. The Iowa Public Employment Relations Board reported that 436 out of 468 public-sector bargaining units statewide voted to remain union affiliated. Some 88 percent of members participated in the votes. In the end, this entire effort approved by Iowa’s GOP leadership was nothing more than a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars spent to tally up these election results and will continue to be so.
Given the roadblocks constructed by anti-union elected officials in the state, the results were overwhelmingly positive. Teamster members and staff who worked for months to build solidarity and momentum across the board should be proud of their efforts.
So how did such a successful campaign happen? One word – organizing. From the workplace to the union’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Teamsters got involved to let Iowa public sector members know about the effects of this lousy law.
Sara Burroughs, a correctional officer with the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department, said once her 30 coworkers learned about what the legislature was trying to do, they knew what had to be done. She joined with shop steward Nick Doy to lead the initial education process there.
“We wanted people to understand that is was so important for them, that if they wanted to vote yes they needed to cast that yes vote,” she said. “Most people got on Nick’s computer immediately and cast a vote, so we had a good grasp of what people were voting and not voting. If people were confused, we helped them.”
The law that led to these recertification votes was an attack on working families, and hardworking Iowans knew it. Imagine if these annual recertification rules applied to elected officials? No one would reach the threshold and get elected!
Iowa Teamsters, whose members include many working in law enforcement, were active in the effort to defeat this legislation. Despite the inclusion of language that would have exempted public safety employees from certain provisions of the legislation, the union refused to back down in its opposition to a measure that would affect more than 180,000 public service workers.
The Teamsters stood up against these anti-union actions because they understood what was at stake.
Voting yes was the first step in fighting back against a larger attack on working families in Iowa. Teamster members realized the attack on bargaining rights was part of an overall agenda that includes cuts in community colleges and universities, nursing home inspections, workers’ compensation benefits, veterans’ home ownership assistance and funding for child abuse investigations.
Hardworking Iowans knew the jobs they did were essential to keep their cities and towns running, and voted yes to keep their unions strong. They understood that supporting their union would ensure workers would have a voice on the job, protect their rights and allow them to bargain for their benefits. Voting yes would allow workers and their families to maintain their dignity.
Workers in Iowa are tuning in more than ever to the reality that big corporate interests have a legislative agenda that hurts working families. But Teamster members are ready to fight back, organizing their workplaces and are ready for any future battles.
That’s what Teamster Power is all about.