The president of the union that represents the largest share of state workers sounds pessimistic about upcoming contract talks in the fall. Danny Homan is president of AFSCME Council 61 which will bargain with Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s administration over pay and benefit packages for state government employees.
“My expectation right now is guarded based on some of the political stunts that this governor has pulled and his demands that he believes that he can come to the table and demand that we will do things tends to make me believe he’s not coming to the table to sit down and bargain with us,” Homan says, “other than to come in and tell us what we’re going to do.”
Homan’s last direct conversation with Branstad was 18 months ago, just before Branstad re-took the governor’s office for a fifth term. Homan suggests the union has a strained relationship with the governor.
“We are treated as the enemy,” Homan says. Branstad earlier this month asked state workers to follow his lead and voluntarily pay for 20% of their health care premiums. Homan filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board, charging that was a contract violation.
Homan, as the president of AFSCME Council 61, is involved in negotiating 140 different contracts — the majority of which are for local governments. Negotiations over one of those contracts — for thousands of workers in the executive branch of state government — will start in November.
“I have a long history of 25 years in bargaining contracts. Probably less than one percent of the contracts that I have bargained over those 25 years has ended up in arbitration,” Homan said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to not go to arbitration, but if that’s where we’ve got to go, then that’s where we’ve got to go.”
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Governor Branstad, says the governor “will bargain in good faith as the law requires, but the governor is always going to put Iowa taxpayers first when it comes to collective bargaining.” The governor’s spokesman said beyond that, the governor “will not engage in a back and forth with Danny Homan.”
Homan made his comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television.