# Unions

Branstad gives up trying to block union pay raises

Terry Branstad was incensed last year when outgoing Governor Chet Culver quickly agreed to contract terms proposed by AFSCME and other unions representing state employees. Culver signed off on AFSCME’s request for a 2 percent across-the-board raise on July 1, 2011, followed by a 1 percent raise on January 1, 2012, another 2 percent raise on July 1, 2012, and a 1 percent raise on January 1, 2013. Other unions also asked for modest wage increases during the next two fiscal years.

On principle, Branstad felt Culver should have left the negotiating to the person who would be governor during the contract period. As a practical matter, Branstad insisted that the state of Iowa could not afford the salary hikes. He and other administration officials called on public sector unions to renegotiate the contracts, but union leaders refused to come back to the negotiating table.

This week Branstad formally asked the state legislature to give non-union state employees the same pay increases those represented by unions will receive.

While the governor continues to believe this contract spends too much money at a time when the state cannot afford it, there are not two classes of state employees, everyone is together and should be treated the same,” [Branstad’s spokesman Tim] Albrecht said.

The governor has not recommended the state pay for the upcoming salary increases. That means that state departments must find the money elsewhere in their budgets to pay for the salary increases.

House Study Bill 247 provides for the salary increases, as well as a few other things on the governor’s wish list. For instance, the bill would “lift the cap on the salary of Iowa’s economic development director, which Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, described as troubling.”

AFSCME and other state employee unions won this round, but count on a bruising battle when it’s time to negotiate contracts covering fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Branstad will resist pay increases and will demand benefit cuts, including substantial employee contributions to health insurance expenses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the contracts for state employee unions end up in arbitration during the next go-around.

If Republicans gain an Iowa Senate majority in the 2012 elections, union-busting will be high on the agenda. A bill to limit state employees’ collective bargaining rights and curtail binding arbitration passed the Iowa House in March after a marathon floor debate. The bill died in the Iowa Senate Labor Committee.

P.S.–Branstad isn’t getting along much better with private-sector unions. Yesterday the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council and the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the governor and other state entities to honor project labor agreements for construction projects in Coralville and Marshalltown.

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Register poll on Obama, gay marriage and more

The Des Moines Register continues to release results from its latest statewide poll. Selzer and Co surveyed 800 Iowa adults between February 13 and 16. Bleeding Heartland discussed the Register's poll numbers on Governor Terry Branstad here.

Follow me after the jump to discuss President Barack Obama's approval inching up in Iowa, slight growth in support for same-sex marriage rights, views on ways to close the state budget gap, and more.

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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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Layoffs for some, furloughs for others as Culver announces budget cuts

This afternoon Governor Chet Culver announced the next steps toward cutting $565 million from the 2010 budget. I've posted the governor's statement after the jump, and you can find pdf files with more details about the cuts here. (UPDATE: The Des Moines Register posted this chart showing the cuts Culver approved.) Highlights:

Culver is ordering all of the 3,258 non-contract (that is, non-union) employees in the executive branch "to take seven days without pay between now and the end of the fiscal year. I do not believe it is fair for any state employee to not contribute toward our solution."

Culver approved spending cut plans submitted by 28 department heads and approved, with minor changes, spending cut plans submitted by 6 other department heads. The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs summarized the impact:

Altogether, the 34 approved plans will save the state's general fund about $520 million, he said.

The approved plans call for a total of 180 layoffs and the elimination of 229 open positions. The total job loss, so far, is 410.

Here's where there the layoffs will be: 79 from the Department of Human Services, 35 from the Department of Revenue, 10.8 from the Department of Inspections and Appeals,  13 from the Department of Education, eight from Iowa Public Television, eight from the Department of Public Health, seven from the Department of Economic Development, seven from the Department of Cultural Affairs, four from the Department of Administration, four from the Department of Management, two from the Alcoholic Beverages Division, two from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and one from the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.

Forty-three state employees tentatively set for layoffs in the Department of Commerce will be spared. The 10 percent across-the-board cut will not be applied to the divisions of banking, credit union, insurance and utilities divisions, which are agencies within the commerce department.

Culver rejected the $45 million spending reduction plans offered by the directors of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, saying,

I reject these two plans because I am hopeful that we can find an alternative to laying off hundreds of correctional officers, state troopers and law enforcement personnel.

I am rejecting these plans because public safety is essential to our daily lives.

That is why yesterday I sent a letter to the state's three bargaining units - AFSCME, Iowa United Professionals, and the State Police Officers Council - who represent more than 16,000 state employees - asking them to join me in negotiations for amending their current contract.  This past Saturday, I met with AFSCME's bargaining unit - which represents more than 13,000 state employees - to discuss ideas for moving forward.  We followed that meeting with a three hour session yesterday morning and the talks have been very productive.  And earlier today, I met with the State Police Officers Council representatives and those talks were productive.  Finally, I will meet with the Iowa United Professionals union leadership as soon as schedules permits, but our staff has been in daily contact with their representatives.

I seek substantive discussions with all three unions on issues that may impact our state budget cuts.  Our goal is to do everything we can to prevent layoffs related to essential public safety.

If we cannot reach agreement with the unions, then I will implement the layoff plans submitted by these two departments.

Unfortunately, we do not have an endless amount of time in which to reach an agreement and to have it ratified by each respective union. I expect to know by Friday, November 6 whether we will move forward in discussions with the unions or implement the layoff plans.

The president of AFSCME Council 61 issued a statement saying his union will negotiate with the governor in the hope of avoiding layoffs. Both sides are promising not to release any details about the discussion until the talks conclude, but no doubt some proposed alternatives to layoffs will leak out before then.

The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont covered Republican gubernatorial candidates' ideas for cutting the budget here.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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