February 8, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNI’s Faculty Union Strongly Opposes Bill to Change Collective Bargaining Law
Changes to Chapter 20 Will Severely Undermine Morale at UNI and Prompt Faculty to Leave
(CEDAR FALLS, Iowa) – Nearly 82% of the University of Northern Iowa’s faculty responded that they would consider leaving UNI, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early if UNI’s faculty lose the right to bargain collectively with the Board of Regents.
The survey was conducted as the Iowa House moved to introduce HSB84, a bill that guts the worker rights of Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code, which governs collective bargaining by public employees. The right to collectively bargain under the current provisions of Iowa’s Chapter 20 is critical to faculty at UNI, the survey found:
• 97.1% of UNI’s faculty responded that collective bargaining is important to their morale as a faculty member (84.1% highly important, 13% important)
• 81.9% of UNI’s faculty responded that they would consider leaving UNI, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early if UNI’s faculty lose the right to bargain collectively with the Board of Regents.
“We’ve gone through the shuttering of Price Lab, large cuts in academic programs, continued budget cuts, the loss of President Rudd and now this. There is only so much that faculty and students can take before they lose confidence in UNI and the Board of Regents,” said Joe Gorton, United Faculty president and Associate Professor of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology.
According to the 2015-2016 UNI Fact Book, there already has been a 5.3% decline in the number of tenure/tenure-track faculty since 2011, from 552 to 517 in 2015.
“One-on-one relationships with experienced professors is one of the main reasons students come to UNI. This bill will make those relationships far more difficult to achieve,” said Becky Hawbaker, United Faculty Vice President and Instructor of Teaching.
The language of HSB84 guts Chapter 20 and excludes nearly all topics currently subject to collective bargaining, giving the Board of Regents and the university administration complete discretion on the topics. The proposed prohibited topics include health Insurance, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction, release time, grievance procedures, seniority, union dues payroll deduction, and supplemental pay. Wages are the only permitted topic of negotiations in HSB84, but it limits annual increases to the lesser of two amounts: three percent or the consumer price index, which would leave faculty in an untenable situation in periods of high inflation. Moreover, the bill adds red tape to the process by requiring union recertification elections every two years.
UNI faculty members spoke strongly against the changes to Chapter 20, and warned of the damage it would bring to UNI, faculty morale, and the future quality of UNI’s brand. A representative sampling of faculty survey comments:
• I will start looking for a new position the moment this becomes law.
• If this state does not support us, I will leave without hesitation.
• It’s time the Board of Regents acted fairly on behalf of the hard-working teachers in Iowa!
• The loss of our right to have full and fair collective bargaining will ruin UNI.
• I am a Regents’ Professor at UNI and am both stunned and distressed with the state government’s apparent distaste for higher education. Students will suffer under current directions.
• It would be very damaging to the faculty’s good relationship with the Board of Regents to undermine 42 years of successful collective bargaining.
• Collective bargaining is essential to us being able to prioritize student success. Without it, we will lose stability and faculty.
• When I came to Iowa almost 30 years ago, Iowa was recognized as a national leader in education. No more. Colleagues around the US widely belief that the state has ceded its leadership in education. Such moves as proposed the governor and legislature will seal the deal.
• If this state destroys its unions, then I will leave at the earliest opportunity. There is no reason for me to stay employed at a university that neither pays me a competitive wage or maintains a culture (through the union) of faculty support.
• The last time that partnership broke down, the University lost around 2000 students. We are still recovering from that loss. Taking away collective bargaining sends a clear message: The state legislature doesn’t care about its employees, only corporate donors.
• Over the past several years, I have watched colleagues at universities in Wisconsin leave their positions (sometimes for less prestigious institutions, or in less desirable locations) due to the way that state has decimated their collective bargaining system.
• My family has recently decided to plant roots here and stay purple for life. But if we cannot count on UNI for stable and fair employment, we must look elsewhere. It is extremely disappointing that I must consider a new job search, but the legislature’s signal is clear. I am not wanted here.
• I am a Wisconsinite, so start with Wisconsin as a cautionary tale…it appears that Iowa wants to follow its brother to the north in an ill-considered race to the bottom.
• My friends in the Wisconsin higher ed system report losing large numbers of teacher ed colleagues to the Minnesota system. Tenured faculty who would be less vulnerable also leave and take their grants with them because they will not have good junior colleagues and the best students will go where the good faculty have fled to. Domino effects of unintended consequences!
• Changes in collective bargaining in neighboring states–Wisconsin and Kansas–have really disrupted their public education systems, and in a negative way.
• How will the state stay competitive in recruiting quality faculty if the right to collective bargaining is eliminated?
• I hope that the legislators can learn from the example of Wisconsin that what they thought would remove sources of unneeded cost to the state actually kept costs down, compared to what universities need to do now to attract good faculty.
• We are already paid less comparing to other equivalent institutions. Having a union was one of the pluses for me to accept the offer from UNI.
• I am bewildered by this effort to deprive employees of the ability to collectively bargain. What is the motivation?
• Collective bargaining was a major factor in my decision to make a career at UNI.
• We became the excellent institution that we are with decent bargaining rights and unions firmly in place. Why dismantle what has been shown to work really well? Without bargaining rights, we stand to attract fewer talented candidates for open positions.
• Weakening collective bargaining rights in Iowa will not be an effective solution for an unbalanced state budget, nor will it improve the quality of education, or public health and safety. What is needed is greater responsibility on the part of the legislature, senate and governor to control spending particularly on ineffective corporate tax breaks and incentive programs. Shifting the burden of that responsibility to the citizens by reducing collective bargaining rights is unfair and will diminish both the morale and productivity of the entire state of Iowa.
• I would leave UNI in a heartbeat if collective bargaining was eliminated and go to another university.
• We are currently in the process of attempting to fill a faculty position. How can we promise benefits in contract negotiations with this legislation looming? This legislative proposal is already impacting the quality of UNI.
• Has anyone considered how many employees in the State of Iowa would be impacted by this measure? Decreases in wages will starve consuming buying power, and tax revenue. Good employees will leave the state. This measure will trigger a downward spiral.
• Without collective bargaining I would be in constant fear and would strongly consider other employment options. I love UNI and have the academic record to find an academic position elsewhere.
“For the sake of UNI’s future, United Faculty calls upon the President Nook, Provost Wolhpart and the Iowa Board of Regents to unequivocally oppose these radical changes,” said Gorton. “We call upon them to place the well-being of faculty, our families and our students ahead of any other agenda that might distract them from doing the right thing.”
United Faculty conducted the survey of UNI faculty Feb. 7-8, 2017, with 315 total responses. Respondents were nearly evenly divided between male (50.7%) and female (49.4%). Respondents included faculty members at all academic ranks, and distributed across UNI’s four main academic colleges (Business; Education; Humanities, Arts & Sciences; and Social & Behavioral Sciences) and the Rod Library.
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 public schools and universities for more than 40 years.
The preamble to Chapter 20 reads:
The general assembly declares that it is the public policy of the state 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; to prohibit and prevent all strikes by public employees; and to protect the rights of public employees to join or refuse to join, and to participate in or refuse to participate in, employee organizations.
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 (AAUP).