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Collective bargaining bill raises concern

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By Anna Kayser

anna-kayser@uiowa.edu

House Study Bill 84 which relates to public employees who use collective bargaining was introduced Tuesday and could hit The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) harder than any of the other state institutions according to Joe Gorton, an associate professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

The bill includes educator employment matters, personal records and settlement agreements, and health insurance matters, making penalties applicable.

“If this bill passes and becomes a law, it’s going to turn UNI to a place of destabilization and conflict,” Gorton said.

UNI Associate Professor Joe Gorton (UNI Criminology Program)

UNI Associate Professor Joe Gorton (UNI Criminology Program)

The University of Iowa and Iowa State University would be impacted less because they don’t have as much collective bargaining, Gorton said.

Gorton is leading a petition to protect collective bargaining and halt the bill. He estimates that it has over 530 signatures.

Gorton also conducted a survey that asked UNI faculty members how they would react to changes in collective bargaining.

“Our survey shows that a large percentage of faculty would consider leaving UNI if this collective bargaining bill passes into a law,” Gorton says.

UNI has been using collective bargaining for 40 years. Gorton said it has worked well and it enabled them to work with administration to solve problems.

Without collective bargaining, Gorton believes there will be more conflicts and lawsuits, as well as damage to morale among staff.

Collective bargaining “governs how the rights, wages, and conditions of 180,000 public employees in Iowa are decided,” said Gorton’s petition to government officials.

Gorton said although the bill would hit UNI the hardest, it could also greatly impact the medical centers within the University of Iowa.

“Some of the things that I’m concerned with is that it’s going to affect healthcare workers’ general work-life balance…the healthcare people that I work with are going to be at the will of their employers,” Lynnette Halstead, registered nurse working at the University of Iowa said. Halstead is also the President of the University of Iowa Hospitals chapter of the Service Employees International Union. “That, in effect, is maybe going to change the way we care for our patients. The whole thing is going to snowball back down to patient care.”

Halstead also said that she is concerned by how they are rushing this bill, as it might not give people a chance to voice their opinion.

“Very concerned that those people that it affects have not had a chance to get out there and speak about this,” Halstead said.

She hopes that the petition does its job to keep collective bargaining laws the way they are.

This petition is aimed at both the state government and the Board of Regents.

“We want the legislative leaders and the governor to take a step back to look at the damage they’re about to cause,” Gorton said.

Gorton said that the Board of Regents should step up to try to stop this bill from passing into a law.