Teachers’ union votes for recertification

Stephanie Vallez · Wednesday, November 1, 2017
The West Liberty Education Association (WLEA), local teachers’ union, wrapped up a vote, Tuesday, Oct. 24, in favor of recertification.

“As we move into the new landscape with the laws as they are, I am confident and grateful that the district will work with the association,” said Dan Stevenson, President of the WLEA.

With certification, the union will retain permission to collectively negotiate teachers contracts and pay on the workers behalf in the district.

The vote passed with 118 votes for recertification and 3 against, with 3 absentee votes. There are a total of 124 teachers in the district, 70 of which are union members and 54 are not.

Teachers’ unions across Iowa are responsible for negotiating contracts and supporting staff members who may have needs.

The WLEA was one of hundreds of unions, not just teachers unions, across the state that had to vote to recertify their roles as negotiators.

Back in February, 2017, former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill rewriting Iowa’s law on collective bargaining after it cleared the House and Senate.

The biggest change: every time public-sector unions renegotiate contracts every two to three years they must also vote to be rectertified as a union.

The changes were made to Iowa Code Chapter 20, a bipartisan piece of legislation which was enacted in 1974 and signed into law by Governor Robert Ray.

Its purpose is to “Promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees by permitting public employees to organize and bargain collectively.”

However President Stevenson has some concerns about changes. He fears that the changes may have been “designed to make things harder for the associations.”

He believes the recertification requirement and changes to collection of union dues have made some things more difficult for teachers’ unions across the state, but he’s still hopeful.

“A positive of all these changes is that our membership has gotten that much more active,” said Stevenson.

Tammy Wawro, President of the Iowa State Education Association, came to West Liberty to support West Liberty’s local teachers’ union as they prepared for the vote

Wawro also visited in support of the recent formation of the local Paraprofessional Education Association (PEA).

The paras, who work beside our students and teachers, felt as though they had been without a union for too long, so they organized to have greater bargaining power.

Preparing for the vote was no easy task.

WLEA was eager to get their contract settled before the new Chapter 20 laws went into effect.

Usually the process takes several weeks, but thanks to help from the School Board and District Administrators, the process was completed in 5 days, including a special session last Valentine’s Day.

The labor market in the area is competitive and many nearby school districts may be working with higher budgets, but Stevenson feels that the support of the School Board and the Administration is what “engenders a staff that stays in the district.”

He believes the recent success with the WLEA sends the message that our teachers matter to our district.

He’s also impressed with the teacher’s participation.

“Over 95 percent of teachers, whether they’re Association members or not, voted to have the WLEA bargain on their behalf,” he said. “I think it’s really powerful to know that we, as an association, have the support of over 95 percent of teachers in the district.”
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