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Local 893 Fights
For Fair Budget,
Against Layoffs, Furloughs


Protesting Iowa's Budget Mess ...   ... threatening state services and jobs ...

A budget mess: UE Local 893, IUP members picket their closed workplace to protest the impact of temporary layoffs on the children and elderly they serve.

As the UE News went to press, the consequences of the state budget deal struck by Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Iowa legislature were not yet clear. What is certain is that the members of UE Local 893, IUP, have taken a strong public stand in defense of their jobs and the public they serve through phone calls, picketing and e-mails.

Local Pres. Bill Austin, who met on June 3 with top state administration officials seeking an explanation of how the new budget will impact UE members, discovered few answers. "I don’t think anyone really knows how this deal is going to play out, at least not yet," Austin commented. "Even state administration is unsure of just what has happened."

Gov. Vilsack, a Democrat, called the Republican-controlled legislature back into session on May 28, the second special session in five weeks. Lawmakers grappled with state budget deficits totaling $435 million over two years. Tax revenues smaller than expected forced state officials to revise with budget plans for 2002 and 2003.

The state House adopted the final deal 52-44; the Senate approved the package 26-22. Most Republicans voted for the budget, most Democrats voted against.


The budget eliminates more than 24 state programs, includes additional furloughs of state workers, and will see some kind of an early retirement scheme. Many areas of state spending are earmarked for an across-the-board 2.2. percent cut. Republican resistance nixed use of the more than $1 billion state road fund.

In the weeks of wrangling over the budget, UE members objected that they are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of cuts in services, the budget shortfall could be fixed by using some of the $400 million in the state’s "rainy day fund" as well by shifting monies out of the road fund.

Pres. Austin pointedly commented on the connection between adequate revenue and public employment. "Taxes pay our salaries," he said. "The painful reality is that we’ve always raised taxes in hard times. No one is going to run on that platform but know that’s the truth," he wrote in an article for the Local 893 web site. "Anyone who denies it isn’t our friend."


Between April and June, more than 3,700 employees statewide were ordered to take 78,613 hours off work because of the budget crisis. UE members employed in the Department of Human Services responded to the furloughs with picket lines.

In Cedar Rapids, more than 40 Local 893-1 members picketed outside the Iowa Building, which houses the Linn County and Cedar Rapids service area staff for DHS. Local 893 Vice Pres. Becky Dawes emphasized to a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter that the union’s primary concern was with the clients who were denied services. The DHS staff serves many elderly people and children, population segments that can least afford loss of services, she said.

"I’ve never seen a legislator come into one of our offices and try to gain information on services and delivery of services," commented UE member Joe Fleming, a 29-year DHS veteran. UE member Wilda Solberg, an income maintenance worker, pointed out that DHS bureaucracy has thwarted reforms that could save money without sacrificing services.


Union members’ chants emphasized their concern about the children they assist. A photo in the Gazette of UE member Kevin Swartzendruber eloquently expressed the Local 893 message. He carried a sign reading, "We Care! Why Don’t They?" Local television carried a report on the union protest.

"The DHS is in meltdown," Local 893 leader Barbara Adams told a reporter on May 10. She was among the 20 union members who picketed outside the locked doors of the Des Moines DHS office, where a sign in English and Spanish read, "The department must close due to budget cuts."

Workers carried signs reading "Don’t Balance the Budget on the Backs of Children," "No More Layoffs," "Honk If You Love Kids," "Stop the War on the Poor," and "Serve the Needy Not the Greedy." Social worker and UE member Tom Sawyer hoisted a placard that read, "Too Many Chiefs Not Enough Indians." His picture appeared on the front page of the metro section of the Des Moines Register. A report also appeared in the Des Moines Press Citizen. Television stations carried coverage of the protest on their noon and 6 o’clock newscasts.

"I want to thank all of the many Local 893/IUP members who worked very hard to send our message to the legislature and the governor during the budget battle," says Local Pres. Austin. "And the battle is not over. We will have a lot of work to do over the coming weeks and months as we continue to defend ourselves and the citizens we serve from the impact of this state budget."

UE News - 6/02

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