IOWA CITY — Iowa labor leaders criticized Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday for giving bonuses to directors while asking many state workers to accept a wage freeze and start paying health-insurance premiums.
“I don’t know what we did to the governor,” said Marty Hathaway, a correctional officer and member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61. “I don’t know why he hates us this much.”
On the eve of contract talks with the state’s negotiating team, Hathaway and five other AFSCME leaders spoke Friday at news conferences around the state, including a stop at the Redstone Building in downtown Davenport.
Hathaway cited news reports describing $128,000 in bonuses Branstad paid to three state agency heads since January 2011.
The bonuses included $30,000 in each of three fiscal years to Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority; a $20,000 housing allowance to Revenue Director Courtney Kay-Decker, and a $16,000 recruitment bonus paid to Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London.
“That is more than some state employees make in a year,” Hathaway said of Durham’s annual bonuses.
Union leaders will start meeting Saturday with state negotiators in an attempt to hash out new two-year agreements by March 1 to start July 1.
Branstad’s initial contract offer includes a two-year wage freeze and a requirement that state employees start paying 20 percent of their insurance premiums, which would be a first for many state workers who have paid nothing for coverage in the past. These changes would save $115 million, Branstad said.
The governor has also proposed scaling back or repealing some rules governing grievances, bumping and transfer rights, as well as discipline and discharge issues.
AFSCME has asked for a 1 percent across-the-board pay increase in the contract’s first year and 2 percent in the following year for the roughly 20,000 workers it represents. The union also wants no insurance premiums.
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Branstad Spokesman Tim Albrecht issued a statement Friday saying state employees “are well compensated as a result of their great work.”
But he criticized AFSCME President Danny Homan and other labor leaders who don’t want to pay health-insurance premiums.
“Gov. Branstad will continue growing Iowa’s economy and creating jobs, and will not be dissuaded because a union boss is desperately trying to prevent his members from paying their fair share,” Albrecht said in the email.
Homan, speaking in Des Moines, described Branstad’s acts as a vendetta.
“Today the state has a surplus and reserves over a billion dollars partly because of sacrifices made by state employees,” Homan said. “But the governor continues to demonize public service workers while he rewards his friend and cronies.”
(Bureau reporter Rod Boshart contributed to this report.)