The union representing the largest number of public employees in Iowa claims Governor Branstad broke the law when he signed an executive order allowing state workers to voluntarily pay up to 20% of the health insurance premiums.
Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, charges the governor created an open enrollment policy and new health insurance plans that do not exist in the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
“He’s attempting to circumvent that agreement by his scheme and political theater of saying do it on a voluntary basis,” Homan said in a conference call with reporters.
Branstad announced on July 2 that he would give up part of his own salary each month to cover 20% of the premium on the health insurance for him and his wife.
A few other elected officials, all Republicans, agreed to do the same and Branstad asked other state workers to voluntarily follow their lead. AFSCME today filed a prohibited practice complaint (PPC) against Branstad with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board.
“We believe it is a clear violation of the law because (Branstad) did it unilaterally and he never even bothered to give us a heads up about it,” Homan said. “I found out about this when I was on vacation. We had no forewarning, never even a phone call.”
Homan noted that Branstad is paying $224 a month to cover 20% of his health insurance premium, but his salary is $180,000. Homan said some employees his union represents make less than $25,000 and simply can’t afford to apply 10-to-18% of that salary toward their premiums.
“Here’s a guy who’s got a full time chef paid for by the taxpayers of Iowa and he’s driven around in a car that’s driven by state troopers, and yet he wants to steal money out of this union’s member’s pockets,” Homan said. He called Branstad’s move a “political stunt” and added some state employees could feel they might lose their jobs if they don’t volunteer to pay part of their health insurance premium.
Tim Albrecht, the governor’s spokesman, issued the following statement in reaction to the AFSCME complaint:
“This is nothing more than a tactic by union bosses to perpetuate a system where taxpayers fund Cadillac health care plans, and to intimidate their own members against voluntarily following the governor’s lead. Iowans are paying up to 100 percent of their family’s health care costs, and the union bosses simply expect Iowans to pay for the sterling health care plans for their workers too. Governor Branstad believes it’s outrageous for Iowans to pay their full health care costs while forced to do the same for state workers. If state employees have skin in the game and take some ownership of their own health, they will lead healthier lives. It’s 20 percent. It’s voluntary. It’s sad the unions are suing to force tax payers to keep paying their bills.”