BUSING

(Kevin E. Schmidt/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Kevin E. Schmidt

The DeWitt bus drivers union that lost its recertification election last month even though none of its members voted against it has objected to the result. 

The union is asking that the election be invalidated, claiming some votes weren't counted.

The Service Employees International Union, Local 199, representing drivers in the Central DeWitt Community School District, has filed an objection with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board, which administered the election, along with hundreds of others in September and October.

The union's appeal claims that 11 of the 16 eligible voters will testify that they cast ballots in favor of the union, even though the unofficial tally only showed eight votes were cast. The public employee relations board reported last month that seven of those votes were cast in favor of keeping the union and one was voided.

The union lost the vote, however, because the collective bargaining law that the legislature passed in February requires that a union get a majority of the votes of those covered by its contract to be retained, not those who actually cast ballots. In this case, that meant nine votes in favor were needed.

Union officials complained that the rules were stacked against them and that no politician ever has to meet that standard.

The Central DeWitt case was striking because not a single vote was cast against the union.

"We don't know what happened. We just don't believe it was an accurate count," Jim Jacobson, the attorney who filed the objection on behalf of the union, said this week.

In addition to claiming that all the votes weren't counted, the union said the election may have been affected by a telephone outage that occurred within the two-week voting window.

Voters could cast ballots by phone or online between Oct. 10th and 24th. The employee relations board reported there was a phone outage on Oct. 20 that lasted 12 hours. The agency said that, overall, about 11 percent of votes were cast by phone.

Mike Cormack, chairman of the public employee relations board, said Thursday that the three-member panel will consider the appeal but a date for a hearing has not been set yet.

Cormack declined to comment on the objection other than to say, "we are a neutral state agency that has to be fair to all the parties involved. We will listen to all the arguments."

The objection was one of three that were filed across the state stemming from the elections in October. The others were in Sigourney and Centerville. All the other elections were certified last week.

The vast majority of union elections in September and October resulted in the unions being retained. In all, there were close to 500 elections over the two months.

The collective bargaining law, which significantly curtailed bargaining rights for public employee unions, requires that elections be held as contracts with local and state governments near their expiration date.

This year's elections involved about 35,000 voters. Next year, they will be even more widespread, with an estimated 55,000 to 60,000 voters, Cormack said.

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