The more than 9,000 dues-paying members of the AFSCME union who work in the executive branch of state government will begin voting tomorrow. If a majority of the union’s members vote “yes” to ratify an “understanding” with the governor, all executive branch workers will take five unpaid days off in order to avoid 479 layoffs. Danny Homan is president of AFSCME Council 61, which represents those workers.
“All we wanted to do was allow the members to have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they were willing to make this concession in order to save state employees’ jobs,” Homan says.
AFSCME has established 31 sites around the state for the voting. Five major Iowa cities will have a polling site, plus there’ll be a polling place near every major state “institution” like a prison. There will be a polling site on each of the state university campuses — in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City. Homan says no one will have to drive more than 50 miles to vote.
“So if I’m an employee that lives in Carroll, Iowa, there won’t be a polling site there,” Homan says. “But there will be somewhere to vote within an hour’s drive of where I live.”
Every site will be open once, for 12 hours.
“Most of them start at 7 a.m. in the morning and are open ’til 7 p.m. so that everyone who may work odd hours has the opportunity to vote either after getting off shift or prior to going back on shift,” Homan says.
Voting in this fashion is nothing new to union members, as its the way they vote every two years to either accept or reject the contracts negotiated with state government managers.
“Typically, the turnout on contract ratification is less than I would like. I think it has been better. Each of the last two years it’s gotten bigger. I think we had vote more people vote last time than we ever had vote,” Homan says. “This vote is much more critical…so I think this could potentially be the highest turnout in any election that has been in conjunction with the state contract.”
Homan says an AFSCME staff member, along with representatives of the local bargaining unit, will be at each polling site to verify the person who is voting is a dues-paying AFSCME member who works in the executive branch of state government.
“If they don’t appear on our membership list, we will have a stack of membership cards there. We’ll ask them: ‘If you wish to vote, you’ll need to sign a green card, a membership card,'” Homan says. “And if they say they won’t sign a membership card, they won’t be allowed to vote.”
The ballots will be placed in a sealed box that has a slit cut in the top. When the polling site closes, the ballots will be counted at each site by the AFSCME staff member and a local union representative. The last person to cast a ballot before the polling site closes will be asked to stay and be a witness to the vote count.
Voting is to start on November 19 and conclude Wednesday, November 25. Homan plans to announce the combined results of the voting from all 31 AFSCME polling sites on Monday, November 30.