An attorney for the Iowa Department of Corrections says anti-Branstad buttons worn back in 2011 by prison staff are a security threat. AFSCME, the union that represents prison workers, produced the buttons which feature a black-and-white photo of Branstad, with a slash mark across the Republican governor’s image.
“If it’s such a safety issue, how come they allowed to wear those pins and buttons in the past without any security issue being raised?” asks Mark Hedberg, an attorney for the union.
The buttons were banned by Branstad Administration officials soon after staff at the state prison facility in Coralville started wearing them in 2011, but an administrative law judge later ruled prison employees could wear the buttons at work. Jeff Edgar, an attorney for the Branstad Administration, argues the pins don’t fit under the legal exemption for union signage related to workplace concerns.
“It’s evidence of just a longstanding general dissatisfaction,” Edgar says. “It’s not relating to any specific employment issue.”
The three-member Iowa Public Employee Relations Board heard the arguments from the two attorneys earlier today and will rule on the case within 60 days. The buttons were produced soon after union members started criticizing Governor Branstad’s decision to close offices around the state which were staffed by union workers who helped unemployed Iowans. The Iowa Workforce Development agency then deployed computer kiosks in schools and libraries to help Iowans looking for unemployment benefits and job search assistance.