AFSCME members who work in the executive branch of state government have approved wage and benefit concessions that will save 479 union jobs.
Over 9,000 dues-paying AFSCME members were eligible to vote through the 25th of November and AFSCME Iowa Council 61 president Danny Homan says there was an “historic” turnout.
Fifty-nine percent of AFSCME members voted yes and 41 percent voted no to ratify the “memorandum of understanding.” It means workers in state executive branch agencies will take five unpaid days off and give up some of the deferred compensation for their retirement accounts.
“I don’t believe this is a good deal,” Homan said this morning. “I believe we did what we had to do to save 479 jobs.”
Homan notified AFSCME bargaining unit leaders of the outcome of the voting, then held a news conference at AFSCME state headquarters in Des Moines to publicly announce the results.
“The reaction by AFSCME members to this vote was amazing,” Homan said, reading from a prepared statement. “To all members I want to say thank you for taking it upon yourself to vote, no matter how you decided to vote.”
Homan warns his union won’t reopen its contract again to make more concessions and Homan says legislators and the governor should consider getting rid of some tax breaks rather than ask state employees to sacrifice more of their pay.
“I’m frustrated that our membership had to make a choice between laying off 479 of their brothers and sisters or to take five unpaid days,” Homan said in answer to a reporter’s question.
AFSCME opened voting sites at 31 locations around the state for the voting and Homan says 66 percent of eligible AFSCME members voted. You had to be a dues-paying member working in the executive branch of state government to be eligible to vote.
Earlier this month, Homan said he was frustrated by the situation.
“I’m still frustrated. I’m still upset that we’re in this position, but…we have to deal with the hand we’re dealt,” Homan said this morning. “…I’m very happy that the membership of this union voted that 479 families are going to have a good Christmas this year. They’re not going to have to worry about buying Christmas presents for their kids.”
Homan talked with some of those who voted against making pay and benefit concessions. “Some of them said they just didn’t feel they should have to sacrifice…to save someone else’s job. A lot of them told me, ‘Maybe we ought to just raise taxes and make everybody pay for it, instead of us,’ Homan said. “…Why is it always us? It was us 2002. It was us in 2003. It’s us in 2009.”
AFSCME has eight bargaining units in the state’s executive branch and Homan says the leaders of those units will not react kindly if he presents them with a management request for more wage concessions.
“I think I can pretty safely say that if I call in my eight bargaining chair and ask them whether or not they want to sit down with the governor and talk about any more concessions in our contract I will be tarred and feathered and that meeting will be very short,” Homan said.
Hear all of Homan’s comments at this morning’s news conference here: Danny Homan
Governor Chet Culver will hold a news conference this afternoon at two o’clock to discuss the AFSCME vote. The union that represents state troopers approved similar concessions, but the union that represents many of the social workers in state government rejected pay and benefit reductions.
(This story was updated with additional information at 11:19 a.m.)