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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 11, 2017

Union election objection withdrawn

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad City Times | Dec 06, 2017

The union representing 16 bus drivers in the Central DeWitt Community School District has withdrawn its objection to the October recertification election that it lost.

Service Employees International Union, Local 199, filed the withdrawal on Sunday and the election was certified by the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. The withdrawal means the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the school district is void, even though it wasn’t scheduled to end until next June. Meanwhile, the union can’t represent the workers for two years.

The DeWitt election, one of hundreds held in this fall, was unusual because seven of the people covered by the union’s collective bargaining agreement voted to recertify the union and none cast ballots against it. An eighth vote was voided. However, the election was still counted as a defeat because the new collective bargaining law, which Republicans passed in February, required that a majority of the members covered by the contract, not of those voting, had to approve to recertify a union.

The DeWitt union had objected to the election loss, saying a majority of those covered did vote but not all the votes were counted. Still, the union withdrew its objection just days before a hearing was to occur.

“We just couldn’t prove that the missing votes ever occurred,” Walter Humphrey, president of the DeWitt bargaining unit, said Tuesday. The votes were cast online and by phone.

Humphrey said that even though the union’s contract has been voided, the district has promised to continue with the terms.

Humphrey said he and his wife, who also is an employee, were the only two members of the union, but 16 were covered by the contract. That meant nine people would have had to vote in favor of recertification.

Mike Cormack, chair of the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board, which administered the election, said Tuesday the board is neutral, but it takes “very seriously” the responsibility for conducting a fair election. “This election cycle statewide had tremendous participation, Iowans voted their preference and we are confident their vote was recorded accurately,” he said.

The vast majority of unions in Iowa facing recertification votes this fall ended up winning. However, union officials say the part of the law that sets a higher threshold for recertification than what had previously been in the law is unfair. They say elected officials don’t have to meet the same threshold. “This is completely rigged,” Jim Jacobson, the attorney for the DeWitt union, said Tuesday.

Supporters of the law said the new certification requirements are aimed at making unions more responsive to their members and to people who are covered by the contracts.

The collective bargaining law significantly curtailed bargaining rights for hundreds of public employee unions in the state, in addition to changing how often unions must be recertified and the rules governing those elections.

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