For years, with the legislature divided between Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate, there have been no substantive changes to the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act, Iowa Code Chapter 20. Therefore, labor relations in the public sector in Iowa have been fairly stable. Now that the two chambers are controlled by the Republican party, and the Governor's Office is controlled by Republican Terry Branstad, look out for changes to Chapter 20. This Client Alert will discuss some of the possible changes we might see to Chapter 20.
First, it is possible that the legislature will repeal much or all of Chapter 20. Other states, such as Wisconsin, have drastically cut back on the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Iowa could follow Wisconsin's example. Less drastically, the legislature could trim back the number or kinds of employees who are covered by the Act. It could exclude employees at certain governmental levels, such as school districts, cities, counties and the state government. Or the legislature could exclude certain types of positions such as professional employees (i.e. K-12 teachers, Community College and University instructors, nurses, and others).
The legislature could expand the management rights specified in Chapter 20 and curtail the employee rights which are also described in the law. If Chapter 20 remains, it is very likely the legislature will curtail the scope of negotiations which is currently set forth in Section 20.9. Currently, the scope of negotiations includes the following items: wages, hours, vacations, insurance, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health and safety matters, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction, in-service training, dues checkoff provisions, and grievance procedures. Some or all of these items may be eliminated from the statute.
Chapter 20 already prohibits strikes. Instead of strikes, the Act provides for binding arbitration if the parties reach impasse in the negotiations process. If Chapter 20 remains intact, these impasse procedures are also likely to be changed by the legislature. Binding arbitration may be made more management friendly. It may be changed to become non-binding, or eliminated altogether.
Finally, the legislature can act quickly or slowly. It is possible that an amendment to Chapter 20 could be effective immediately. If that looks likely, those currently involved in collective bargaining may want to slow down and see what happens to the state law. Otherwise, the statute may be amended to change effective July 1, 2017.
It is hard to predict the future of Iowa's collective bargaining law, but it is almost certain that the old familiar Chapter 20 will be changed. Stay alert and be on the lookout.
About Ahlers & Cooney's Client Alerts. Our Client Alerts are intended to provide occasional general comments on new developments in Federal and State law and regulations which we believe might be of interest to our clients. The Client Alerts should not be considered opinions of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., and are not intended to provide legal advice as a substitute for seeking professional counsel. Readers should not under any circumstance act upon the information in this publication without seeking specific professional counsel. Ahlers & Cooney will be pleased to provide additional details regarding any article upon request. Additional copies of this Client Alert may be obtained by contacting any attorney in the Firm or by visiting the Firm's website at www.ahlerslaw.com. ©2016 Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. All Rights Reserved.
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