DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court says a 2017 law that eliminated some bargaining rights of non-public safety public employees is constitutional.
The law divides public employees into two groups via their collective bargaining rights. Public safety employees saw no changes to their rights; teachers, campus police officers, prison guards and thousands of other public employees lost their right to bargain for anything other than wages.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the law by a 4-3 ruling released on Friday morning.
Justice Thomas Waterman wrote in the majority opinion that it is not the court’s job to consider political implications of why a bill was passed, but only to weigh whether the legislation is constitutional.
“Our role is to decide whether constitutional lines were crossed, not to sit as a superlegislature rethinking policy choices of the elected
branches. We conclude the 2017 amendments withstand the constitutional challenges,” Waterman wrote, “Public employees remain free to belong to the
Justices Mansfield, Christensen and McDonald joined Waterman in the majority opinion.
Two separate dissenting opinions were filed by the other three justices.
Chief Justice Mark Cady disagreed with Mansfield in his opinion. He said the court can and should consider why a piece of legislation is written the way it is. In this case he says the law was unmistakenly designed to target certain unions.
“In this case, the legislation offends our constitution,” Cady wrote, “There is simply no reason why the general assembly could not have drawn the lines to eliminate the unconstitutional distinctions.”
AFSCME Council 61, one of the plaintiffs in the case, says today’s ruling is “a disappointing step backward on the long walk toward justice for public service workers.” President Danny Homan released a statement on Friday saying the ruling will inspire more union organization.
“In the coming months, we will be unveiling new efforts to mobilize public service workers in ways never before seen by the State of Iowa. Now that the Supreme Court has issued their ruling, we move forward with clarity, purpose, and resolve. We will show our strength through collective action, continuing to demand dignity and respect on the job. Day by day, member by member, and arm in arm, we will remain a strong and vibrant force for working people. We will continue fighting to sustain our families, improve our workplaces, and strengthen our communities. No court decision can stop that.”