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Upbeat Iowa
UE Activists
Advance Agenda


Larkin, Boeding, Fraise, Hasenclever
UE Political Action Day brought together two UE Local 893 members who hold elected office in Iowa (above) — State Rep. Rick Larkin and Fort Madison City Councillor Neal Boeding, pictured above with Sen. Eugene Fraise, assistant minority leader, and Local 893 member Pat Hasenclever.
Kelly, Amelie Hanson, Vilsack, Matt Hanson
Amelie Hanlon takes center stage (below) while father Matt engages Gov. Tom Vilsack (behind Amelie); Local 893 Pres. Dan Kelly is to the left of the governor.

More than 50 UE members gathered here for the seventh annual UE Political Action Day on Feb. 8. A morning of icy fog gave way to a bright day that saw UE members attending workshops, extensive discussions with legislators and meeting with Gov. Tom Vilsack.

"It was very upbeat, people thought it was terrific," reports Local 893, IUP Pres. Dan Kelley.

Delegates came from three locals: Local 893, the large statewide amalgamated local representing mostly state employees; Local 896, COGS, representing graduate employees of the University of Iowa; and Local 855, representing the staff of Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo. They were joined by representatives of the independent Des Moines Municipal Employees Association.

Although legislative committees were in session, the energetic UE members met with 50 legislators, fully one third of the legislature.


About a week before the conference, newspapers reported that two and a-half year-old Shelby Duis, a client of the state Department of Human Services, had been brutally beaten to death. The little girl’s mother and boyfriend have been charged with first-degree murder. The social worker assigned to the case, Chuck Ilig, is a Local 893 leader; like many caseworkers, Ilig has an enormous caseload, logging some 600 hours of overtime in two years.

"There is every reason to expect that Chuck did everything right," Local Pres. Kelley says.

The tragedy led to fresh attacks on State of Iowa social workers by those Kelley describes as "the radical right." "These are the people who have worked for years to cut our budget and cut our staff and are now whining that something happened," he says.

Two years ago, the then-Republican governor likely would have used the tragedy to call for privatization of UE members’ jobs. This year, the UE members met with a governor willing to defend front-line state employees. "The visit with the governor was really uplifting," says Kelley. "The former governor tried to exterminate us, so to have someone who supported us was beyond belief."

Meeting with the UE conferees, Gov. Vilsack defended the Human Services staff — and he described himself as having grown up in an abusive family. The problems in the Human Services Dept., he said, are problems of understaffing and underfunding created by his predecessor. Gov. Vilsack said that state employees are set up to fail when the legislature fails to provide adequate funding, and that failure becomes an excuse for further cuts.

The governor declared, "We have put you, the public employees, into a system that is often tragically underfunded, and doesn’t work — but we are going to do something about it."


The Iowa UE activists also heard from Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark, who told them: "UE is having a political impact in Iowa, without giving millions of dollars in political contributions — and our work here has helped elect a governor who is finally listening to us."

In welcoming participants, Local 893 Pres. Kelley pointed out that "We always have the largest rank-and-file contingent of any union to lobby, and that speaks volumes about the nature of our union."

Chris Townsend, UE political action director, reviewed the union’s battle against privatization and Iowa legislative agenda — emphasizing opposition to privatization, increased funding for public education, investigation of excessive social worker and income maintenance worker caseloads and expansion of public-sector worker rights.

District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen brought greetings on behalf of the district, which includes Iowa.

Pres. Kelley noted sadly the absence of Alex Phillips, a volunteer in the union’s Johnson County office, who passed away eight days previously. A physically challenged individual, Phillips energetically and effectively advanced the union’s political agenda in his wheel chair. Kelley proposed that the day be dedicated to Phillips’s memory.

UE News - 02/00

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