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How Union Busting Works in Iowa


When Republicans won control over all branches of government in Iowa, they passed one of the strongest anti-union laws in the country. Not only did the state go right-to-work, which would be bad enough. Not only did it force public sector unions to have votes every year in order to see if workers wanted to decertify the union. But no, it also forced those unions to win a majority of all workers in the bargaining unit, not just workers who choose to vote. And this is deadly to the state’s public sector organized labor.

The Johnson County employees represented by PPME Local 2003 lost their union representation Tuesday night, John Deeth, 2003’s bargaining unit chair for administration, tweeted. Due to 2017-recertification requirements added to Iowa Code, the union is dissolved.

“Union membership is important, even in a workplace with labor-friendly bosses like Johnson County’s elected officials. I expect this loss to hurt the administrative unit’s wages, health care costs and disciplinary issues,” Deeth told the Press-Citizen on Wednesday.

Local 2003 represents non-supervisory employees of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Recorder, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney and the county’s Data Processing, Physical Plant, Planning and Zoning, and Public Health departments.

The union was first certified in 1986 and, as of the Oct. 13-27 election, 69 employees were eligible to vote. To recertify, pro-union voters had to reach a 35-person majority. But the effort only had 25 ‘yes’ votes — 10 short. Only one voter cast a ‘no’ in the recertification election. Deeth called the voting system unfair since a single ‘no’ outweighed 25 ‘yes’ votes.

Now, yes, you can argue that the union should have organized its people better. I get that. But it also shouldn’t have to in order to survive. And when you have a 25-1 vote and still lose, well, that is what Republicans want to do to Democratic voters in every part of the nation. This is a Trojan horse in their anti-majoritarian politics.

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