CF teacher association faces vote

Voters have until Oct. 24 to cast their ballots and ensure that the CFEA, or Cedar Falls Education Association maintains their bargaining rights.

Last February, the Iowa Legislature approved changes made to the state’s collective bargaining laws, including a provision requiring public-sector unions to hold recertification elections before negotiating new contracts.

Previously, unions remained certified unless a member called for a decertification vote, but under the state’s new collective bargaining laws, every time they face a new contract negotiation, unions must re-certify.

Cedar Falls’ union, known as the Cedar Falls Education Association (CFEA), is holding its recertification vote through the 24th.

Many other districts have already held their recertification votes. In September, 13 bargaining units cast recertification votes, and nearly 90 percent of all eligible listeners participated. Iowa has 477 total bargaining units, representing close to 33,500 employees in the state.

More than 60 percent of eligible voters have cast ballots in the first two days of this particular two-week voting cycle.

Media specialist Kristi Anhalt is one of the membership chairs of the CFEA. She is responsible for recruiting new members and renewing old memberships for the CFEA.

“We are there for both the teachers and the students. We are there to help teachers when things aren’t going well for them, whether it’s bringing in someone to help them or providing insurance for them. We also provide conferences and learning opportunities for teachers, and our association is the bargaining unit for the district. We have a group of teachers that meet with the admin and bargain our contract.”

Vee Barnard, president of the CFEA, said, “The primary responsibility of CFEA is to represent the certified staff (teachers) in our district in their employment relations.  This means that we make sure teachers have the best working conditions to create a rich learning environment in their classrooms so students are able to learn and achieve at high levels. CFEA is a strong collective voice advocating for public education.”

Failing to gain a majority vote would strip the CFEA of their right to negotiate pay and other benefits, and would require that they wait two years before attempting to regain certification for their association.

“If we do not meet our 50 percent +1 threshold, the Public Employee Relations Board of Iowa states that once the election results are certified, the association is no longer the exclusive bargaining agent (teachers’ voice and advocate) and the master contract is null and void immediately. This means that teachers are not guaranteed to have the employment benefits that are outlined in their master contract,” Barnard said.

Roughly 260 members make up the CFEA — a great deal of them teachers at the high school. One of these teachers, Jeremiah Longnecker, said, “If enough teachers vote no or fail to vote, then we have nobody that’s going to protect us. A lot of the traditional safeguards for teachers are going by the wayside. If this continues, you’re going to see fewer educators. Not everyone is monetarily motivated, but this might mean less people,” Longnecker said. “Although I don’t necessarily think that we are in a district that will be immediately abused, I don’t know that that’s the same about workers in all places. People join unions for that protection, not only to bargain for salaries and insurance, but for the protection, so that we are treated in a way that we should be.”

Voting concludes on Oct. 24 and PERB officials hope to have results available in the days following.

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