Public Bargaining in light of Chapter 20 Changes

by Matthew Sean Brick on Feb. 06, 2019

Employment Government 

Summary: This article covers the major changes to public bargaining in Iowa after the 2017 Legislative revisions to Chapter 20.

Public Bargaining in Light of the Changes to Iowa Code Chapter 20

September 27, 2017



Collective Bargaining Overview

Significant Changes to Collective Bargaining;

Certification and Re-Certification and   Decertification Elections;

Supplemental Pay;

Effects of Other Law Changes.



Collective Bargaining Overview

House File 291

In February 2017, Iowa Legislature passed and Gov. Terry Bradstad signed Collective Bargaining bill into law.


The Public Employment Relations Act significantly changed collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Collective Bargaining Contract Ratification

The changes to Chapter 20 do not apply to any contracts that have been already ratified.


However, to the extent any current contracts or tentative agreements have not been ratified, they are considered terminated and the parties must restart negotiations in accordance with the February 2017 changes to Chapter 20.

Significant Changes to Collective Bargaining

Changes to Public Employment
Relations Board (PERB)


PERB lost ability to interpret Chapter 20 provisions.


Previously PERB created their own ideas of what Chapter 20 meant via adopting Iowa Administrative Code rules or internal decisions.


PERB Adopted Emergency Rules on February 27, 2017.


Non-Public Safety Unions v. Public Safety Unions

There are now two classes of unions.


“Public safety" employees include, sheriff deputies, city police officer, park ranger and city firefighters.


At least 30% of the union members have to be public safety officers for the union to be considered a public safety union.

Both Union Type Requirements

Collective bargaining agreements may not exceed five (5) years.


Employee evaluations have been added as a management right reserved for employers.

Non-Public Safety Unions

Base wages are the only mandatory subject of bargaining.


Non-public Safety unions are excluded from negotiating: insurance (health, dental, disability, etc.), leaves of absence for political activities, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, evaluations, staff reduction and subcontracting of public services.


Public Safety Unions

Mandatory subjects of bargaining remain similar to what they were prior to the February 2017 changes.

Grievance procedures have been added as a mandatory subject of bargaining for public safety unions only.

Mandatory bargaining subjects for public safety unions include: wages, hours, vacations, insurance, holidays, leaves of absence, shift differentials, overtime compensation, supplemental pay, seniority, transfer procedures, job classifications, health and safety matters, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction, in-service training and, now, grievance procedures.



Negotiation Exclusions

Retirement plans, dues checkoffs, payroll deductions for political activities are excluded from negotiations.


These subjects cannot be discussed even if the union and the employer were to agree to discuss them during bargaining.

Prohibited Practices

It is now expressly a prohibited practice for a union member to attempt to negotiate directly with an elected official if the public entity has appointed a bargaining representative.


During the arbitration hearing, the parties shall not introduce, and the arbitrator shall not accept or consider, any direct or indirect evidence regarding any subject excluded from negotiations.

Non-Public Safety Employees

Arbitrators must consider:

A comparison of base wages, hours and conditions of employment for both public and private employers;

Interests and welfare of the public;

Financial ability of the employer to pay without raising taxes or increasing revenue.


Arbitrators may not consider:


Past contracts;

Negotiations that led to impasse; 

Employer's ability to raise taxes or increase revenue to pay for the contract. 


Public Safety Employees

Arbitrators must consider:

Past contracts;

A comparison of base wages, hours and conditions of employment of other public employees doing comparable work;

Interests and welfare of the public.



Limitations to Arbitrators Awards

At impass, the arbitrator may not award more than: (a) 3.0%; or (b) the CPI for consumers in the Midwest region—whichever is lesser.


PERB is tasked with provided the CPI rate to the parties.


Certification, Re-Certification and Decertification Elections

Union Certification Elections

The show of interest required to trigger a certification election now requires interest from at least 30% of all members--it used to be just 10%.


A certification election now requires a majority vote of all potential members of a union--it used to require just a majority of the potential members who showed up to vote.


There can only be one certification election every 2 years.


Re-Certification Election Requirements

Re-certification is required for both Non-Public Safety Unions and Public Safety Unions.


Re-certification elections are not required for any contracts that expire prior to April 1, 2018.


For both certification and re-certification elections, Unions are required to pay the entire cost of the elections.



Re-Certification Election Requirements

Between June 1st and November 1st in the year before a contract expires, PERB must hold an election to re-certify that a majority of all members want to remain in the union.


If less than a majority of the entire union votes to stay in the union, the union is decertified and the employer would no longer be required to negotiate with the union once the contract expires.

Union Decertification Elections

A decertification election may be requested by anyone (an employer, union employees or the general public) as long as it has been more than a year since a certification/re-certification election and the agreement in place at the time is for a period longer than 2 years.


If a majority of all the employees in the union vote to decertify, the employer would no longer be required to negotiate once the contract expires.

Supplemental Pay

Emergency Rules Implemented by PERB

In February 2017, PERB implemented emergency rules.


Under the Emergency PERB Rules, “Supplemental pay” means a payment of moneys or other thing of value that is in addition to compensation related to the employment relationship.


Non-public safety employees are prohibited from negotiating supplemental pay during impass arbitration.


Recent PERB Arbitrator Decision

Union argued that pay dates, baseline wages and direct deposit requirements should be permissible as bargaining items.


State argued that those items do not fall under eligible items of the new law and were not included in any proposals in its contract offer.


PERB Arbitrator decided the Union’s proposals were reasonable, provide certainty to public workers and do not cause the State great cost concerns.

Effects of Other Law Changes

Mass Transit Employee Exception

An exception to collective bargaining changes has been made for mass transit employees.


But only if the DOL determines that the changes are in violation of the protections provided to municipal mass transit employees under 49 USC 5333b (commonly known as Section 13(c) rights).

Open Records

Chapter 22.7 was changed to expressly state that information indicating how public employees voted in a union election or whether or not they support a union election is expressly exempt from public disclosure.

Public Employee Benefits

Public Employee Financial Provisions, Chapter 70A, has a new section that states that a public employer shall offer health insurance to all permanent, full time employees.


The new section goes on to state that an employer can, but is not required, to offer health insurance to other employees.


Civil Service

Civil Service, Chapter 400, has been changed to allow councils to extinguish employees' seniority rights.


In addition, the standard for termination under civil service has been modified.


Employers are now only required to show the employee violated a law, a city policy or SOP, and/or the employee's supervisor has determined that the employee is unsuitable or unfit for employment.




Legal Articles Additional Disclaimer is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Content posted on is the sole responsibility of the person from whom such content originated and is not reviewed or commented on by The application of law to any set of facts is a highly specialized skill, practiced by lawyers and often dependent on jurisdiction. Content on the site of a legal nature may or may not be accurate for a particular state or jurisdiction and may largely depend on specific circumstances surrounding individual cases, which may or may not be consistent with your circumstances or may no longer be up-to-date to the extent that laws have changed since posting. Legal articles therefore are for review as general research and for use in helping to gauge a lawyer's expertise on a matter. If you are seeking specific legal advice, recommends that you contact a lawyer to review your specific issues. See's full Terms of Use for more information.