UNITED ELECTRICAL, RADIO & MACHINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, Appellant,
IOWA PUBLIC EMPLOYENT RELATIONS BOARD, Appellee, and STATE OF IOWA and BOARD OF REGENTS, Intervenors-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Douglas F.
appeals a district court order dismissing its petition for
judicial review of a declaratory order of the Iowa Public
Employment Relations Board. AFFIRMED.
Charles Gribble and Christopher Stewart of Parrish Kruidenier
Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des
Moines, for appellant.
S. Machir, Des Moines, for appellee Iowa Public Employment
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Molly M. Weber, Assistant
Attorney General, for intervenors-appellees State of Iowa and
Iowa Board of Regents.
Christy A.A. Hickman, Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa
State Education Association.
case requires us to interpret recent amendments to the Public
Employment Relations Act limiting the mandatory subjects of
collective bargaining and the matters an arbitrator may
consider if the dispute enters binding arbitration. Under the
2017 amendments, when a bargaining unit does not have at
least thirty percent public safety employees, bargaining is
limited to "base wages and other matters mutually agreed
upon." 2017 Iowa Acts ch. 2, § 6 (codified at Iowa
Code § 20.9(1) (2018)). If such bargaining reaches
impasse and the impasse persists, the dispute goes to binding
arbitration, but the arbitrator may not consider "[p]ast
collective bargaining agreements between the parties."
Id. § 13 (codified at Iowa Code §
to clarify the meaning of these provisions, a union sought a
declaratory order from the Iowa Public Employment Relations
Board (PERB) and then judicial review of the declaratory
order. Both PERB and the district court ruled that "base
wages" meant the "minimum (bottom) pay for a job
classification, category or title, exclusive of additional
pay such as bonuses, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay
or longevity pay." In addition, both ruled that
"past collective bargaining agreements" meant
agreements that predate the current expiring agreement. The
appeal, we now hold that PERB and the district court
correctly interpreted the 2017 amendments. In the abstract,
terms like "base wages" and "past collective
bargaining agreements" are ambiguous, but the context
allows us to determine their meaning here. We conclude that
"base wages" means the floor level of pay for each
job before upward adjustments such as for job shift or
longevity. The term "past collective bargaining
agreements," in the context of a law that limits the
arbitrator's potential award to a certain percentage
increase in base wages, Iowa Code §
20.22(10)(b)(1) (2018), allows the arbitrator to
consider the existing collective bargaining agreement but not
ones that came before. See id. §
20.22(8)(b)(1). Accordingly, we affirm the judgment
of the district court.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America
(UE) is the parent of two local unions based in Iowa: UE
Local 893/Iowa United Professionals and UE Local 896 (COGS).
Both locals are certified by PERB to represent bargaining
units of State of Iowa public employees. Local 896 represents
a unit of graduate and professional students employed by the
University of Iowa. Local 893 represents the science and
social services units of state employees.
Iowa legislature enacted House File 291 in February 2017 to
amend the Public Employment Relations Act. See 2017
Iowa Acts ch. 2 (codified in part at Iowa Code ch. 20
(2018)). Previous law required public employers and certified
to negotiate in good faith with respect to 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 other matters
mutually agreed upon.
Code § 20.9 (2017). The 2017 amendments altered this
duty for bargaining units that had less than thirty percent
public safety employees to "base wages and
other matters mutually agreed upon." 2017 Iowa Acts ch.
2, § 6 (codified at Iowa Code § 20.9 (2018))
(emphasis added). Thus, for many public employees in Iowa,
the only mandatory subject of collective bargaining became
"base wages." The amendments did not define base
addition, if a collective bargaining negotiation stalled and
binding arbitration was required, previous law required the
arbitrator to consider "[p]ast collective bargaining
contracts between the parties including the bargaining that
led up to such contracts." Iowa Code §
20.22(7)(a) (2017). In 2017, this was changed for
bargaining units containing less than thirty percent public
safety employees. Henceforth, the arbitrator would be
prohibited from considering "[p]ast collective
bargaining agreements between the parties or bargaining that
led to such agreements." 2017 Iowa Acts ch. 2, § 13
(codified at Iowa Code § 20.22(8)(b)(1)
(2018)). At the same time, the 2017 amendments required the
arbitrator to "consider and specifically address in the
arbitrator's determination . . . [c]omparison of base
wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the involved
public employees with those of other public employees doing
comparable work . . . ." Id. (codified at Iowa
Code § 20.22(8)(a)(1)). Additionally, the
following qualification was added for bargaining units
containing less than thirty percent public safety employees:
[T]he arbitrator's award shall not exceed the lesser of
the following percentages in any one-year period in the
duration of the bargaining agreement:
(a) Three percent.
(b) A percentage equal to the increase in the consumer price
index for all urban consumers for the midwest region, if any,
as determined by the United States department of labor,
bureau of labor statistics, or a successor index. Such
percentage shall be the change in the consumer price index
for the twelve-month period beginning eighteen months prior
to the month in which the impasse item regarding base wages
was submitted to the arbitrator and ending six months prior
to the month in which the impasse item regarding base wages
was submitted to the arbitrator.
Id. § 12 (codified at Iowa Code §
April 21, approximately two months after House File 291
became law, UE petitioned for a declaratory order from PERB.
UE sought a declaration on whether four proposals constituted
mandatory, permissive, or prohibited subjects of bargaining.
UE also asked a fifth question concerning the authority of an
arbitrator to consider wage levels under the existing,
expiring collective bargaining agreement.
Organization is proposing an annual base wage of 1. $50,
000.00 for each employee,
A. per year beginning July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019,
B. distributed in bi-monthly payments on the 1st and 15th of
C. for working 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week,
D. with nine (9) holidays,
E. three (3) weeks' paid vacation,
F. ten (10) days paid sick leave,
G. time and a half for hours worked over 40 hours in a single
PERB is asked to state whether item 1 is of Proposal I
mandatory, permissive or prohibited subject of bargaining and
to provide a ruling as to whether item 1A is a mandatory,
permissive or prohibited subject of bargaining. The same
request for a ruling as to 1B and to each part thereafter
with rationale for the proposed decision.
employee organization has proposed an annual base wage for
each employee in the bargaining unit as follows:
Employee A: $32, 000.00
Employee B: $34, 000.00
Employee C: $36, 802.41
Employee D: $40, 121.00
Employee E: $43, 650.00
Employee F: $45, 444.00
Employee G: $48, 602.00
Employee H: $54.604.50
Employee I: $61, 889.42
Employee J: $69, 551.41
asked to state whether Proposal II is a mandatory, permissive
or prohibited subject of bargaining.
employee organization represents employees in four different
pay grades with pay grades one requiring the least amount of
time on the job and pay grade four the most. Each increased
step reflects one more year of service (there are no
seniority rights) and annual base wage is as follows:
Pay Grade 1:
Year 1 - $30, 000
Year 2 - $32, 000
Year 3 - $35, 000
Year 4 - $40, 000
Year 5 - $46, 000
Pay Grade 2:
Year 1 - $35, ...