North Scott School District labor negotiations

Worried members of a labor union in the North Scott School District packed a meeting room on Wednesday as union representatives squared off in labor negotiations with district officials.

The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which includes positions like teachers' aides, secretaries and custodians in the district, filled a meeting room in the district's administration center, Eldridge. Some of the 50 or so present expressed concerns about losing benefits, several weeks after the Iowa Legislature approved sweeping changes to Iowa's collective bargaining laws.

North Scott is the only Iowa Quad-City metropolitan district that didn't settle contracts before the new law went into effect in mid-February. Bettendorf, Davenport and Pleasant Valley settled multi-year contracts in January and February before the law was passed.

North Scott came close to settling at that time, but did not.

On Wednesday, the SIEU was represented by attorney Jim Jacobsen, based with Local 199 in North Liberty, Iowa. Joe Stutting, North Scott's superintendent, represented the district.

Before he moved to Eldridge, Stutting was a school official in Wisconsin. In 2011, that state passed high-profile changes to its collective bargaining legislation, similar to what was done in Iowa.

Jacobsen described the union's requests as the "status quo," per the new law. He sought a five-year contract with 3 percent across-the-board wage increases, and changes to some benefits and procedures.

Stutting countered by offering a one-year agreement with no wage increase. He added that the district wants to stay competitive and is "not out to gut benefits."

North Scott will offer the employees what the district can afford, Stutting said.

The two sides also differed on the type of document to be approved: The district prefers the agreement be in the form of a handbook, while the union is expecting a traditional contract agreement.

The superintendent said the administration does not want to tie the hands of future board members to a long-term contract. Jacobsen said a contract would be legally binding, versus a handbook.

Because the new law was passed in February, the negotiations may continue until June 30, or before the new fiscal year begins July 1.