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10,000 University of Iowa caregivers & staff vote overwhelmingly to keep their unions

October 27, 2020

Healthcare workers, staff and graduate employees in three unions at the University of Iowa have voted overwhelmingly to recertify their unions.

– The state-mandated recertification elections forced workers to clear a high bar to retain their unions; workers in all three unions voted 99% to stay union

– The UI and UIHC caregivers and staff, who’ve led calls for safety during the pandemic, now have an even stronger voice to speak up for Iowans

– All three unions will soon begin contract talks with the Iowa Regents; workers call on Regents to drop past low-road approach, embrace high-road negotiations

WHAT: Socially distanced press conference; UI unions announce historic election results, address Covid-19 crisis

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Across from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; at the corner of Hawkins & Evashevski Drive, Iowa City. By northeast corner of Kinnick Stadium.

* * * *

IOWA CITY — Ten-thousand healthcare workers, staff and graduate employees at the University of Iowa (UI) have voted overwhelmingly to keep their unions.

“This victory is great news for every Iowan,” said Cathy Glasson, RN, president of SEIU Local 199, which unites the 4,000 RNs and healthcare professionals of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). “The public servants who’ve been fighting for Iowans during the Covid-19 pandemic now have an even stronger voice to speak up for the people we serve.” The members of SEIU Local 199 voted 2,828 to 38 to recertify their union.

Workers in all three unions have led the call to combat the state’s Covid-19 outbreak. Last week, caregivers and staff at UIHC issued a joint statement calling on Iowa’s elected leaders to institute safety measures to stem the state’s record number of Covid-19 hospitalizations. In August, UI graduate employees and UIHC healthcare workers joined together to protest the Iowa Regents’ failure to put forth a plan to safely reopen the university.

AFSCME Local 12 represents 4,600 UI staff as well as nursing assistants and service and maintenance workers at UIHC. AFSCME’s UI and UIHC workers are in several different bargaining units; AFSCME workers in all State of Iowa bargaining units voted 99.4 percent to 0.6 percent retain their union. The 1,800 graduate employees at UI are members of UE Local 896–COGS, and they voted 1,330 to 11 to keep their union.

All of the UI and UIHC caregivers and staff are public employees. To keep their unions, they and thousands of other Iowa public service workers had to vote between Oct. 13 and Oct. 27 in recertification elections, which were established in 2017 by an anti-worker state law.

The law forces public service workers to clear a very high bar to keep their unions. Winning a majority of votes in an election isn’t enough to ensure victory. A majority of ALL employees at a workplace must vote yes to keep their union. Workers who don’t vote are effectively counted as no votes. Despite the unfair election rules, Iowa’s public employees have voted overwhelmingly to recertify their unions in the elections held since 2017.

The controversial 2017 law also gives state and local agencies the power to tear up existing union contracts and attack the rights of union workers. The Iowa Regents, who oversee both UI and UIHC, used the 2017 law to gut the contracts of the workers in all three unions. Members of AFSCME, COGS and SEIU talked Tuesday about the failure of the Regents’ low-road approach and explained how high-road contract talks would lead to better outcomes for public employees and the Iowans they serve.

Across Iowa, thousands of other public employees are voting in this year’s round of recertification elections. Locally, the municipal workers of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are voting, as are the public employees of Linn and Johnson Counties, state workers in the departments of transportation, corrections and human services, as well as school employees in area districts.

SEIU Local 199 represents 5,000 healthcare and public service workers across Iowa. It is an affiliate of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union. SEIU’s Healthcare Division includes 1 million nurses, lab techs, environmental service workers and other vital staff who serve 60 million patients and clients.