DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) – The Iowa Supreme Court recently affirmed a county court’s summary judgment in favor of the state Legislature in response to claims from two Iowa labor unions that several 2017 amendments to the state's Public Employment Relations Act violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.
In the opinion filed May 17, Justice Thomas D. Waterman ruled in favor of the state, explaining that the “legislative classifications” retain the amendments’ constitutionality under the court’s “rational basis test,” and that the plaintiffs conceded that the State is not required to provide payroll deductions under the constitution.
The Iowa State Education Association and the Davenport Education Association claimed the amendments, which “ended payroll deductions for union dues and narrowed the scope of mandatory collective bargaining topics for bargaining units comprised of less than 30 percent of public safety employees,” was unconstitutional.
The two unions sought to “receive injunctive and declaratory relief against the State of Iowa,” and the Public Employment Relations Board of Iowa.
In the Supreme Court's opinion, Waterman saidn that in past instances, “the United States Supreme Court and other appellate courts have rejected equal protection challenges to enactments or policies eliminating payroll deductions for union dues while allowing payroll deductions for nonunion organizations,” and that fiscal interests were accepted as reasonable motive for the amendments.
Three justices - including Brent R. Appel, Mark Cady and David Wiggins - concurred in part and dissented in part the opinion. Appel, who delivered their statement, found that the excuse of “cost savings” to prohibit union dues was likely invalid as the amendment itself still imposes costs.
Appel found that the real purpose behind the amendments to “weaken unions by making it more difficult for them to collect dues,” was protected under the constitution, regardless of its intention. While recognizing the political issues at hand regarding the lawsuit, Appel found that the legality of the appeal failed to hold weight.