We Will Fight! Iowa Labor Leader Talks About the Attack on Public Workers

“THIS WILL BE MY NEXT CONTRACT,” said Iowa’s District 61 President, Danny Homan, holding a one-page document that will replace the union’s contract, which is on the podium. He spoke ominously of what the future holds for his members after new changes to his state’s collective bargaining system. Under this new law, only base pay will be negotiated, stripping Iowa’s public workers of all other bargaining rights. Photo: Mike Lee

“You are the backbone of this union. You gotta get off your ass,” said Iowa District Council 61’s President Danny Homan, in a blunt warning to activists that they must pick up the fightback against the anti-union attack on public workers nationwide.

“Struggle is not time-limited, but it is the road to resolution and victory,” said Local SSEU Local 371 President Anthony Wells, when he introduced Homan.

Homan, an international vice president of DC 37’s national union and for five decades an activist and leader, delivered this stern warning before an audience of SSEU Local 371 delegates, alternates and activists at the local’s Delegate Assembly meeting at DC 37 headquarters on April 19.

In an emotional, impassioned speech, Homan spoke bluntly about the brutal, draconian changes made to the long-standing collective bargaining agreement with public workers in Iowa.

AFSCME District Council 61 represents public and private sector workers in Iowa, where it has 160 bargaining units. Some 13,700 of the workers are union members.

Though Iowa is a right-to-work state, since the mid-70s the union worked under a clearly-defined legislated system of collective bargaining.

But in early January, the newly-elected reactionary Iowa state Legislature rammed through radical legislation eviscerating the rights of public workers to negotiate with state and local governments.

The new law, which went into effect immediately, strips Iowa’s public sector workers of their right to bargain over workplace rules, health benefits, supplemental pay, transfer and layoff procedures and union release time for political activities.

As in the case of Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin, the new Iowa law bans payroll dues deductions, forcing the unions to expend time and money to collect dues from the membership. The union must pay for a recertification vote every year. The local stands to lose 10,000 members if they are not resigned by the end of June. Like DC 37’s Union Strong organizing campaign, the Iowa union is fighting back, organizing and signing up members, and encouraging many to contribute to PEOPLE, the national union’s political action committee.

The union filed a lawsuit against the state, calling Iowa’s new law unconstitutional because it fails to grant equal protection to members who are university Police Officers while excluding uniformed Police Officers and Firefighters from the collective bargaining restrictions.

In summing up, Homan told the crowd the union needs to take the fight to their members, and push against the right-wing assault on labor, especially the attack against public-sector unions.

In discussing the Iowa union’s struggles, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said, “We are spoiled here in New York, and sometimes we forget that there are sisters and brothers who face the same fight, but at a much tougher level.”

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