The head of the union that represents 40,000 state and local government workers in Iowa plans to sue, in hopes of blocking a new state law that would reduce collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.
“This law is unconstitutional,” Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, said during a news conference at the statehouse.
He announced the pending lawsuit shortly after the Iowa Senate gave final approval to the bill. Critics say the bill is a farewell gift to Governor Terry Branstad before he resigns and leaves for his new post as U.S. Ambassador to China.
“Well, I’m giving Terry a different present tomorrow. I’m giving him a lawsuit,” Homan said, to cheers from union members in the audience.
Homan’s union has been bargaining with the Branstad Administration and is due to present the union’s final offer tomorrow. If Branstad signs the bill into law quickly, it could force negotiations on a two-year contract to start from scratch under new rules. Homan expects the union’s lawyer will seek a temporary injunction in district court that would put the law on hold while the case makes its way through the courts.
Wisconsin’s governor enacted a similar law in 2011 and it withstood a legal challenge in that state’s courts. “The Wisconsin lawsuit and the Iowa lawsuit are going to be completely different because the laws are different. Heck, the supreme court there is different because the supreme court is an elected supreme court. They run as a partisan body,” Homan said. “I believe we’ll get a much better shake with the Iowa Supreme Court….at least that’s my hope.”
Homan and his union have sued Branstad before, accusing the governor of lacking the legislature’s authorization to close state institutions like the state-run juvenile home in Toledo and Iowa Workforce Development offices around the state. The court ruled in Branstad’s favor in those cases.