(updated Spring 2023)
What is collective bargaining?
One of the main reasons being in a union gives us power is because it gives us collective bargaining rights. That means our employer is legally required to negotiate a contract with us, as opposed to our employer setting the terms of our employment without our input. When we have these terms enshrined in a contract, if our employer violates those terms (e.g., tries to pay us less), we have legal standing to fight them.
How does bargaining work for us?
In Iowa, collective bargaining rights of public sector unions like ours is outlined in Chapter 20. In 2017, the republican legislature made some major changes to this law. In the previous version of the law, public sector employees had previous been required to bargain over a wide set of topics (called mandatory topics), including tuition, fees, grievance procedure, and health insurance. Now, the only mandatory topic for most public sector unions is wages. These other topics were relegated to permissive topics––meaning employers can but are not required to include these topics in their proposals. Read more about Chapter 20 here.
When do we bargain?
Since 2017, we now bargain every two years for a two-year contract. This year, in spring of 2023, we are bargaining for a 2023-2025 contract that will go into effect in Fall 2023.
Who do we bargain with?
We do not bargain with university administration; we bargain with the Iowa Board of Regents. They are a 9-member board appointed by the Iowa governor. Currently, the board is made up of almost all conservatives and a few members who have donated massive amounts to Governor Kim Reynolds.
What happened to the rest of our contract?
In 2017, the University of Iowa agreed (after an extensive pressure campaign) to put most of the now-permissive topics that made up our previous contract into University policy. The problem with this is that those terms are now in the hands of the University; they can change them at any time.
Does Iowa law limit our power as a union?
As one of our members wrote, “Chapter 20 functions as union busting by other means.” It does substantially limit what we can currently achieve at the bargaining table. But the reason that Iowa legislators work so hard to crush unions like ours is because they know the power that we hold when we organize. Even when we had more expansive collective bargaining rights, our power still came from our rank-and-file members.
A 2012 study showed that even in states without collective bargaining rights, public sector workers in unions make more than their non-unionized counterparts. The pressure we build through organizing matters on small and large scales. When we organize, we win!