Union member says he doesn't know why Branstad 'hates us this much'

AFSCME members question bonuses for agency heads while workers asked to take wage freeze

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Iowa labor leaders criticized Gov. Terry Branstad Friday for giving bonuses to directors while asking many state workers to accept a wage freeze and start paying health insurance premiums.

“I don’t know what we did to the governor,” said Marty Hathaway, a correctional officer at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville and a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61. “I don’t know why he hates us this much.”

Hathaway was one of six AFSCME members who spoke across the state Friday, one day before union leaders start meeting with state negotiators in an attempt to reach new two-year agreements slated to start July 1.

Hathaway cited Gazette reports detailing $128,000 in bonuses Branstad paid to three state agency heads since January 2011.

The bonuses included $30,000 in each of three fiscal years to Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority; a $20,000 housing allowance to Revenue Director Courtney Kay-Decker and a $16,000 recruitment bonus paid to Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London.

“That is more than some state employees make in a year,” Hathaway said of Durham’s annual bonuses.

The news conference highlights the different images the union and Branstad seek to cast about state workers as they go into contract talks.

Branstad’s initial contract offer includes a two-year wage freeze and a requirement that state employees start paying 20 percent of their insurance premiums, which would be a first for many state workers who have paid nothing for coverage in the past. These changes would save $115 million, Branstad said.

The governor has also proposed scaling back or repealing some rules governing grievances, bumping and transfer rights, as well as discipline and discharge issues.

AFSCME has asked for a 1 percent across-the-board pay increase in the contract’s first year and 2 percent in the following year for the roughly 20,000 workers it represents. The union also wants no insurance premiums.

Branstad Spokesman Tim Albrecht issued a statement Friday saying state employees “are well compensated as a result of their great work.”

But he bashed AFSCME President Danny Homan and other labor leaders who don’t want to pay health insurance premiums.

“Governor Branstad will continue growing Iowa’s economy and creating jobs, and will not be dissuaded because a union boss is desperately trying to prevent his members from paying their fair share,” Albrecht said in the email.

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