Before Local 96 was organized, there were other groups on campus and across the state that had already joined together to form AFSCME International and AFSCME Iowa Council 61.  One of the first in Iowa was Local 90 which was formed in the 1930s to represent the road workers in Boone County Iowa, and continues today.

At Iowa State University, Local 870 was active in support of blue collar workers even before there was a state law that allowed for official representation and a binding contract.  It was hard work and dedicated efforts of organized public employees that led to the 1974 law that provided a way for public employee organizations to be certified as the official employment representative and to negotiate binding employment contracts.

Prior to the 1974 law, terms of employment such as pay, benefits, and working conditions could be changed at any time by action of public employers without any input and direction by the employees subject to those terms.

With the passage of the Public Employment Relations Act, many groups such as blue collar, technical and security bargaining units quickly organized to take advantages of the opportunity to bargain and guarantee wages and benefits.  As the clerical employees state-wide had not had an organization previously, it wasn't until later that the process to gain recognition for clerical employees was attempted.

After an earlier effort in 1981 was not successful, a vote was held in November 1984 where clerical employees state-wide voted yes to the benefits of representation and binding contracts.  While most clerical employees at other state work locations chose to join with existing AFSCME locals in their areas, two groups decided to form their own local.  At Iowa State, clerical employees formed Local 96, and Polk County state clerical employees formed Local 1185.

From the beginning, clerical leadership chose to join together with other state-wide bargaining units who had a track record of strong contracts and guaranteed benefits.  The first contract that included clerical employees was negotiated in Winter of 1984-1985 and took effect on July 1, 1985.

Since 1984, Local 96 has elected leaders who are clerical employees of Iowa State University, just like the employees whose interests they represent.  Local 96 has also had a representative on the bargaining team that meets with state-wide management every two years to negotiate each new contract.