Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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AFSCME members approve deal to avoid layoffs

Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced today that its members approved a deal union leaders negotiated earlier this month to avoid about 500 layoffs. The vote was 59 percent in favor and 41 percent against.

The deal requires about 20,000 state workers to take five furlough days between now and June 30, 2010, and give up some $75 a month in state contributions to a supplemental retirement plan.

I was surprised to see that only about 66 percent of approximately 9,000 AFSCME members cast a ballot in this election. (Because Iowa is a right-to-work state, many workers who are covered by AFSCME’s contract are not members of the union.) Maybe the polling places weren’t convenient for a lot of people.

UPDATE: Charlie Wishman of AFSCME wrote me to say:

66% is an extremely high number, in fact the highest for a contract vote of any kind from our records.  We’re very proud of the membership turnout.  In fact, I believe it is higher than turnout for most general elections.  The membership absolutely cared a lot about this decision, and passions were high on both sides of the issue.  Council 61 had no position on the outcome of the vote other than we wanted everyone affected to have the opportunity to vote.

It is false to assume also that we didn’t make the polling sites as accessible as possible.  You can view them here http://www.afscmeiowa.org/mou.htm at the bottom of the page.  We were sure that no one would have had to travel over 48 miles to a voting site.  No one would have to travel over one hour, and all major sites were represented.

Governor Chet Culver sought negotiations with three unions last month when he rejected the preliminary spending reduction plans offered by the directors of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.

The Iowa United Professionals union opted not to accept concessions in order to avoid 55 layoffs among its members.

The State Police Officers Council was to vote on a deal similar to what AFSCME negotiated, but I haven’t seen any results from that vote. If members vote for that agreement, 40 state trooper and gaming enforcement positions would be preserved. In exchange, about 640 union members would take five furlough days and give up some state contributions to a retirement plan.

UPDATE: Sounds like the State Police Officers Council also approved the deal. Culver will hold a press conference today at 2 pm to discuss the votes.

SECOND UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s statement is after the jump.

THIRD UPDATE: Kathie Obradovich observes, “Other governors have tried and failed to get concessions from the unions.”

The Iowa Democratic Party points out that Culver succeeded where Terry Branstad failed. The full statement is after the jump.

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