We Are One rally gathers on Capitol steps

Kaleb Warnock

Iowa civil service employees will be rallying Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines to make Iowa lawmakers aware of their solidarity as civil employees.

The We Are One Rally is a response to recent events in Wisconsin that have sparked large-scale strikes and protests by civil employees and teachers that is estimated to have reached almost 30,000 people.

Although Iowa labor union rights prevent them from striking, members of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the South Central Federation of Labor and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Iowa Council 61, along with many others will be standing on the west steps of the Iowa Capitol to bring attention to the grievances of their Wisconsin counterparts.

“It’s nothing but a show of support for the public sector workers in Wisconsin who are having their right to collectively bargain and talk to their employer gutted by [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker and the Republicans and the Wisconsin legislature,” said Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61.

However, things are going to play out slightly differently in Iowa than in Wisconsin. Andy Bock, president of the AFSCME Local 96, ISU chapter, and library assistant for Parks Library, wants to make it explicitly clear that union employees at Iowa State have no intention to strike or to leave work without authorization so far.

“We do not do anything to impair our work assignments, but some of us are planning to attend,” Bock said. “It’s a benefit to Iowans to know that when there’s a blizzard, they’ll have snow plow drivers.”

Bock and a few other employees will be using personal days while attending the rally in order to avoid conflict with their employers. Although he isn’t planning on leading anything drastic, Bock still asserted that he supports his colleagues up north.

“We are public employees who are represented by a strong contract and are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,” Bock said. “We’re doing what we can to not have that division come here to Iowa.”

Walker, R-Wisc., proposed a bill that currently threatens civil employees’ collective bargaining rights and holds them accountable for paying for about one-eighth of their health benefits and decreasing their pensions.

Collective bargaining is a voluntary negotiation between employees and their employers with the intention of preserving the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

Wisconsin isn’t the only state being affected by the budget crunch. Almost every state in the country is having issues dealing with their respective budget deficits, and many are looking toward cuts in the public sector. Unfortunately for union members, other states such as Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Maine and Missouri are also looking to limit union benefits.

To put it in perspective, nearly 1,500 ISU employees are union members, who can be in positions from clerical to custodial to groundskeeping. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 alone represents 40,000 civil service employees, and therefore, Homan is worried about the bill’s potential to affect Iowans.

“If Rep. Lance Horbach‘s bill [House Study Bill 726], which is an attempt to gut the heart out of Iowa’s collective bargaining law, would get passed, I don’t know what will happen,” Homan said. “But I believe that public sector employees and our counterparts in the private sector should be equally concerned with what Horbach is attempting to do with his bill that will gut collective bargaining and tilt the table.”