The head of the largest union for state government workers calls looming layoffs “devastating.” Governor Culver ordered a 10 percent cut in the state budget Thursday, indicating “hundreds” of state workers would lose their jobs as a result.
“We are preparing for some of the toughest times this union has ever seen,” says Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61. “A ten percent across-the-board cut will be devastating to state workers and the people they serve, no matter how necessary that cut is.”
State workers covered by the AFSCME-negotiated contract already had agreed on a pay freeze this year. Homan says his union is helping come up with a list of efficiencies that could help reduce state spending.
“They have taken wage freezes and have stepped up to the plate every time they have been asked,” Homan says, “not just in this recession, but in every downturn this past decade.”
Homan praised the governor for saying he would like legislators to consider plugging more money into the Iowa Workforce Development agency to help laid-off workers in their job search.
“We want them to receive the same benefit as anyone else who is laid off. I view this in the same light as a plant closing,” Homan says. “There are certain things that are triggered when a plant closes. I would like to see the state employees — although this is not a plant, I think this will have the magnitude of a plant closing — I would like them get all the same services anyone else would get when there’s a major plant closing or business shut-down in the State of Iowa.”
Governor Culver, a Democrat, has ruled out a tax increase, but Homan says “you don’t cut your way out of an economic downturn” and it’s time to consider a tax increase.
“State government’s not overspending,” Homan says. “We don’t have the revenue to provide the basic services that we are charged to provide and that’s the problem.”
Homan’s union represents 40,000 workers in city, county and state government in Iowa.