IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A union representing University of Iowa nurses is appealing to the state Supreme Court in an effort to secure an agreement reached before lawmakers limited union bargaining powers.
Service Employees International Union represents 3,500 workers at UI Hospitals and Clinics. It’s appealing a district judge’s ruling in December that the university’s Board of Regents doesn’t have to honor an employment agreement presented to the union early last year.
The ruling said the contract wasn’t binding since the board didn’t vote to ratify the agreement. The union ratified the contract in February, days before state legislators limited the bargaining power of public-sector labor unions.
Union negotiator Jim Jacobson said legislators have rigged the system against workers by limiting what employers are required to address with employees. He said bargaining agreements force representatives to sit down with their employees and commit to employment terms and agreements.
“(It’s a matter of) having an enforceable legal document as opposed to aspirational guidelines that may or may not be what they decide to do,” Jacobson said.
The Local 199 chapter of SEIU has negotiated with the university over employment agreements for two decades. The last contract that was secured by the union expired in July 2017.
The contract that the union ratified in February to replace the last one was similar to past agreements. Jacobson said it was “almost identical,” except for a 2 percent pay increase for the next two years. The university gave employees a 2 percent pay increase this year already, even though they’ve argued they’re not bound to the contract.
A board spokesperson declined to comment on the litigation.