Bill Introduced by Legislature Seeks to Penalize Public Employees for Their Employer’s Mistake

Proposal Adds Absurd Standards in Attempt to Erase Iowa’s Public Unions

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa) –Iowa Senate Study Bill 3185 (now renamed Senate File 2374), introduced this week by State Sen. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood) would penalize and decertify public unions in Iowa for their employer’s mistake in failing to submit a list of employees to the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

“There is no other way to define this bill except as an attack on Iowa’s public employees and their right to have public unions,” said Christopher Martin, a communication and media professor and president of United Faculty, the union representing about 500 faculty members at the University of Northern Iowa.

The new language in the bill states that if the public employer fails to submit a list of employees to the PERB within 10 days, the board shall issue written notice of the failure to the public employer and the bargaining representative. Five days after issuance of such notice, the board shall immediately decertify the representative and the public employees shall not be represented by an employee organization.

Under the proposed legislation, if by oversight or by malicious intent, the public employer (e.g., Iowa’s Board of Regents, or a public school district) fails to submit a list of employees in the bargaining unit, it is the public employee labor union that pays the price. The only way to prevent immediate decertification is for the public employee union to go to district court within five days to petition for extending the deadline – the deadline that the employer missed, not the public employee union.

“We always want to do our best as public employees at the University of Northern Iowa and serve our students and the statewide community,” Martin said. “But, this bill seeks to undermine our working conditions. It hurts even more that an alumnus of our great university would sponsor legislation that seeks to harm our faculty, and all public employees across the state.”

Faculty at UNI have successfully supported recertification in 2020 and 2022 with at least 97% approval in those elections. “We have proved we have overwhelming support for our public employee union, and worker support for their public employee unions across the entire state is similar,” Martin said.

The purpose of Chapter 20, the state code that provides for public employee collective bargaining, is “to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees by permitting public employees to organize and bargain collectively; to protect the citizens of this state by assuring effective and orderly operations of government in providing for their health, safety, and welfare.”

Chapter 20 was enacted in 1974 with bipartisan support, and signed by Republican Gov. Robert Ray. The law led to collaborative contracts and labor peace at Iowa’s schools, universities, and other public workplaces for more than 40 years.

In 2017, the legislature and governor pushed through a bill that eviscerated Chapter 20. The changes excluded nearly all topics that were subject to collective bargaining, and severely constrained wage increases. It also added red tape to the process by requiring union recertification elections every two years.

SSB 3185 adds further and wholly unreasonable restrictions to Chapter 20 and public employees’ fifty-year right in Iowa to organize.

United Faculty, established in 1976, is the chief negotiating agent for the University of Northern Iowa’s faculty, and is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers (AAUP/AFT).


  • Together we are stronger. Your solidarity helps us achieve more for ALL faculty.
  • UF enjoys broad support among faculty. In our Fall 2018 recertification vote, 547 faculty voted yes to support UF and only 17 voted no. In the following recertification vote in Fall 2020, 97.5% of those voting supported UF with a YES vote! And again, in Fall 2022, 97% of faculty voting supported United Faculty.
  • UF collaborates effectively with other faculty leaders and administration to solve problems, create fair policies, and to protect your rights and fair working conditions
  • As UNI confronts falling enrollments and budget challenges, as a new faculty evaluation system is rolled out, and as our general education curriculum is revised, the potential for serious threats to faculty abounds. We need a strong union to stand up for faculty, and we need you with us.
  • More than 80% of our dues go to our membership in American Association of University Professors (AAUP) or our legal counsel. Both of these have been powerful assets and critical allies.


  • UF fought to protect your health and safety during the COVID pandemic.  We advocated for you on the COVID Response Team, filed OSHA complaints, took your concerns to the press, and assisted individual faculty for health accommodations. Tragically, there have been nearly 10,000 COVID deaths in Iowa through September 2022, but we are glad that UNI faculty were kept safe from serious illness during this difficult period.
  • UF supported Dr. Steve O’Kane when he was disciplined for his class masking policy. On Sept. 23, 2022, an external arbitrator ruled that UNI violated the Faculty Handbook when it imposed a “needs improvement” evaluation rating on Dr. O’Kane as part of his discipline and made a directive to rescind that rating and replace it with the one his Department Head assigned.
  • UF leaders’ work in collaboration with other faculty and administrators Faculty Handbook Committee has resulted in:
    1. A new handbook chapter that preserves due process rights for faculty who are disciplined or terminated. Pressure from a case letter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that UF solicited on behalf of Dr. O’Kane was instrumental in instigating and approving this policy.
    2. A new promotional ladder for temporary, term, and renewable term faculty that went into effect in 2023. (If you are a temporary, term, or renewable term faculty member and would like our advice or assistance on promotion, please contact us.)
    3. New handbook language for more flexible office hours (such as online hours) as a new post-COVID norm.
    4. New timetable language so that annual PAC evaluations of renewable term faculty are not required after six years.
  • UF collaborated with the University Benefits Committee to reduce costs to the plan, resulting in only small increases to health care premiums for two years.
  • Preserved faculty ownership of online curriculum and secured paid summer training for online pedagogy and curriculum development.
  • UF communicated faculty displeasure with the lengthy paperwork for filling out the annual Faculty Activity Report, and worked with the Provost’s office to substantially reduce annual reporting requirements.
  • UF has assisted and advocated for more than 120 individual faculty-related issues ranging from major discipline, discrimination, termination, denial of tenure, evaluation issues, insurance issues, teaching assignments, office assignments, OCEM investigations, travel questions, search issues, and many other smaller issues.

These accomplishments, and more, are why 97% of the voting faculty supported recertification for United Faculty in 2022. We never stop working to ensure that UNI supports faculty development, rewards faculty excellence, and safeguards faculty academic freedom. Not a member? Contact President Chris Martin for details on how to join at


  • Child care
  • Termination procedures and tenure protections
  • Expansion of benefits
  • Academic funding

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