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Government

Iowa union leader blasts state wage offer as 'slap in the face'

AFSCME head says workers deserve more than 1 percent raise

Danny Homan is president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61.
Danny Homan is president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61.

DES MOINES — The head of the union representing the largest group of public employees in Iowa is accusing state officials of delivering “a slap in the face” to thousands of workers by offering them a 1 percent raises.

Danny Homan, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, issued a statement Wednesday blasting the proposal as the state prespares for closed-door negotiations with three public employee unions in January.

“On Monday, Gov. (Kim) Reynolds praised state employees, calling them ‘the boots on the ground,’ and ‘the ones who are carrying out the mission every single day,’” Homan said in the statement. “Instead, the workers who keep our communities safe and deal with our state’s most vulnerable, violent, and at-risk citizens are given a slap in the face.

“The hardworking employees who keep this state running deserve better, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure they get it.”

A 1 percent pay increase and a refusal to discuss any permissive subjects of bargaining sure doesn’t sound like ‘gratefulness’ to me,” Homan said in the statement.

“We came to the bargaining table in good faith,” he said. “We’re not here to play games. We’re here to ask for a fair contract — one that doesn’t make a mockery of state employment.”

AFSCME, which represents roughly 19,000 members that includes nurses, corrections officers, university employees, and transportation workers, among other public workers, opened talks by asking for 3 percent raises for each of the next two fiscal years.

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Representatives for the 600-member State Police Officers Council proposed annual 3 percent across-the-board pay increases while boosting minimum pay grades by 3.5 percent and leaving health benefits as they are.

Iowa United Professionals, representing about 2,400 social-service, scientific and professional workers, requested a 4.5 percent across-the-board raise for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and a midyear bump of 2 percent each year for maximum pay grades.

Union leaders say the state is in a financial position where it can afford to increase base wages.

If fully funded as initially proposed by the three state employee unions, the increased wages and benefits would total $116.8 million for the two contract years, with $63.7 million coming from the state’s general fund, according to the state Department of Management.

The overall total would increase to $153.3 million if the increased compensation was extended to employees not covered by the three collective bargaining units.

Contract talks between the state and the three unions are underway while the Iowa Supreme Court considers legal challenges to the 2017 law that scrapped Iowa’s 1974 collective bargaining law and replaced it with a sweeping overhaul.

AFSCME and the Iowa State Education Association unions are challenging the law in court, saying it violates the Iowa Constitution by creating separate classes of public employees: some who kept most of their collective bargaining rights and others who lost most.

The law limits most public-sector union contract negotiations to base wages capped by the cost of living, while eliminating such issues as health insurance and supplemental pay as mandatory topics for discussion. Public safety employees are allowed to bargain on a wider range of issues than others.

Speaking with reporters earlier this week, Reynolds said the collective bargaining talks with state-employee unions represent “a balance” in arriving at contract terms that taxpayers can afford.

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“It’s no different than what a business does when they put a budget together,” the governor said. “We’re going to do the best that we can with the resources that we have.

“We’re grateful for our state employees — they’re the boots on the ground,” Reynolds added. “They’re the ones who are carrying out the mission every single day.”

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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