UNION STANDOFF: Branstad’s Executive Order

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The fight over Gov. Branstad’s executive order allowing state workers to voluntarily pay part of their health insurance premiums went to court today.

About 85-percent of state employees get free health insurance coverage. In July, Iowa’s longest serving governor, Terry Branstad, issued an executive order allowing state employees to voluntarily begin paying 20-percent of their monthly premiums.

Around 100 employees took the governor up on his offer. But unions want to stop the plan, saying it violates state labor laws.

Today they took their case to an administrative law judge.

The unions claim Iowa law doesn’t allow for changes to benefits for union employees except through negotiations, even if the changes are voluntary by the employee.

The Des Moines Register reports there is another unintended consequence of the governor’s order. Because some state employees changed their health plans, they are now eligible for certain services for free due to the federal affordable care act.

Thousands of other state workers aren’t eligible for those benefits.

The unions want the judge to strike down the executive order and require the state to give back all money voluntarily paid by employees.

A ruling will be made sometime early next spring.

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