Lawsuit Filed to Stop Major Changes to State’s Collective Bargaining Laws

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DES MOINES, Iowa–Protests didn’t do it. Neither did a marathon debate. Union workers hope a lawsuit will now be the solution to prevent Republicans from stripping most of the issues nearly 184,000 have a right to bargain in contract negotiations.

AFSCME Local 61 President Danny Homan announced that his legal team filed the lawsuit in Polk County District Court around 8 a.m. Monday.

Read the lawsuit here.

Homan says the suit claims the Republican-led changes are unconstitutional because they treat different types of public workers differently. Police officers and firefighters are largely exempt from changes in the law Governor Terry Branstad signed in a private event Friday. “This is not the end,” Homan said of the lawsuit, “The governor signing it. This is the beginning.”

Homan said it is “inherently unfair” to impose certain bargaining rights for some workers and exclude others. The lawsuit asked for a court injunction to stop the law from taking effect July 1st. He acknowledges this could lead to a long court fight that makes it to the Iowa Supreme Court.

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“I want to compliment the legislature,” Branstad said of the quicker-than-usual process the collective bargaining bill became law. Republicans introduced it on Tuesday, February 7th. It became law Friday, February 17th.

The governor has previously said the law, approved in 1974, was outdated and the new law will require public workers to have to pay more toward health insurance, as well as give schools and local governments more leeway in negotiating individual benefits packages with employees.

(Governor Branstad defends new collective bargaining changes. Photo: WHO-TV’s Dave Price).

His office released a statement regarding the lawsuit:

“It’s not surprising that Danny Homan, the former Vice Chair of the Democrat Party, has desperately decided to run to the courts with expensive litigation.  Since the 1970’s, organized labor and their special interests have hid behind an outdated law that routinely won out against the best interests of Iowa taxpayers who make public employment possible.  I can proudly say that will no longer be the case.  From the beginning, these necessary reforms have been about bringing fairness for Iowa taxpayers, flexibility for public employers and employees, and greater freedom for local governments, state government and school districts to effectively manage their resources.”