An attorney for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union filed a lawsuit early this morning, challenging the state’s new collective bargaining law for public sector employees. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, the union that represents 40,000 public workers in Iowa, spoke with reporters via conference call this morning.
“The governor signing this bill is not the end. This is only the beginning,” Homan said. “We intend to use every legal opportunity we have to challenge the constitutionality of this law.”
A guard at the state prison in Clarinda, an Iowa State University policeman, a DOT motor vehicle enforcement officer and a University of Northern Iowa employee have joined the lawsuit. Homan said the only thing those four employees may bargain over now are their base wages, while people who do similar work — like police officers — were exempted from the new law, so they can discuss 17 subjects as they negotiate their contracts.
“Why have we created a system in this state that treats public employees that are virtually doing the same work differently than other employees?” Homan asked.
Homan’s union is currently in talks with the Branstad Administration over a two-year contract that would start July 1. Last Friday, Branstad’s management team submitted a final offer covering just one thing: base wages.
“For any Republican legislator that says we as a union have an ability to sit down and talk to the employer about things…is wrong. Their words ring hollow,” Homan said.
The new law permits negotiations over things like seniority or how layoffs may be handled, but only if both the union and management agree to include those items. All those workplace issues that have included in state worker contracts for decades been deleted from Branstad’s final offer.
“Everything that we said would happen in fact did happen,” Homan said. “This is a really sad day.”
The union is seeking a court order that would temporarily stop implementation of the law, until a final court decision is made on the case. Homan hinted that other lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law will be filed by other groups.