A group of Iowa-based unions plans to hold a rally at the statehouse in Des Moines this afternoon as a “show of solidarity” with protests in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s governor has proposed major changes in that state’s labor laws, sparking days of protest at the state capitol in Madison. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61 in Iowa, says Iowa’s governor and some Republican legislators are pushing a bill in Iowa that he calls “Wisconsin Lite.”
“I believe it cuts at the very heart and soul of collective bargaining here in Iowa,” Homan says. “Although it is not as drastic as Wisconsin’s bill, that’s only by a matter of degrees.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is pushing for state workers to pay more for their health care and pensions and Wisconsin’s governor would only allow unions to negotiate over pay — nothing else. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is calling for what amounts to new “veto power” that would let Iowa’s governor or state legislators nullify a negotiated contract with unionized state workers.
“It is equally as bad, from my perspective, as what Governor Walker has proposed in Wisconsin,” Homan says.
Homan’s AFSCME union represents the largest share of workers in the executive branch of state government. Branstad has gone toe-to-toe with AFSCME before over pay and benefits, losing in arbitration and then in court.
“The Supreme Court ruled and said, ‘Final and binding means final and binding’ so this is, I guess, Governor Branstad’s payback to us,” Homan says. “He has just waited a number of years — 18 years — to try and get what happened in 1992 with the Supreme Court overturned.”
Homan hints there could be repeated protests at the state capitol in Des Moines if legislators embrace Branstad’s labor-related proposals. “Could we see rallies similar to that in Wisconsin?” Homan asked rhetorically during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. “I hope we don’t have to.”
The changes Wisconsin’s governor seeks deal with all public-sector workers in that state, from teachers and fire fighters to state workers, while Branstad’s proposed changes in Iowa labor law primarily impact state government workers.
This afternoon’s union rally on the west steps of the statehouse is scheduled to begin at one o’clock.