Danny Homan (file photo)

Danny Homan (file photo)

The leader of the union that represents the largest group of state employees is sharply critical of the contract offer made today by representatives of Governor Terry Branstad.

“This is a clear indication to me that this governor is going to try and hurt the people that work for the state,” says Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61.

Employees in the executive branch who are covered by an AFSCME contract would not get a pay raise in the next two years under today’s initial offer. Management’s initial offer to the 600 members of the State Police Officers Council was for a one-percent pay raise.

“The message Terry Branstad is sending to me right now is that State Troopers are worth more in this state than correctional officers who guard our most violent criminals in our prison,” Homan says, “that state troopers are more important than the folks that work in a Mental Health Institute and become punching bags for folks that are mentally ill.”

The Branstad Administration is not offering health insurance as a benefit to either bargaining unit. The governor has indicated he’ll ask legislators to consider a “master” agreement on health care benefits for union workers at all levels of government. That would include state workers, as well as those employed by cities, counties and school districts. Homan says union workers provide “necessary services” and some deal with the state’s most vulnerable and violent people, but he concedes Republicans at the statehouse may try to change labor laws like Wisconsin Republicans did in 2011.

“Will we become Wisconsin? If we do, shame on us. Take a look at what’s happened in Wisconsin, like 35th or 36th in job growth. We’re already last in the nation in mental health care,” Homan says. “…Is this what the citizens of Iowa want? I hope not.”

Janet Phipps, the director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, is Governor Branstad’s lead negotiator on union contracts.

“It appears it’s going to be a tight budget year,” Phipps says.

And she says that’s one reason for the offer of “zero” when it comes to pay raises for workers covered by AFSCME’s contract.