Iowa Local Defends Jobs
Through Political Action
DES MOINES, Iowa
State income maintenance workers, members of UE Local 893,
Iowa United Professionals, are hailing the Vilsack Administration’s decision
June 11 to officially terminate the X-PERT computer system. Six weeks earlier,
under pressure from the union, the state legislature withdrew funding for the
"The most important aspect of our victory over X-PERT is
that we demonstrated that it is possible to impact our working conditions by
political action," declared Local Vice Pres. Bill Austin.
X-PERT was intended to streamline the determination of
eligibility and benefits for the public assistance, Medicaid and food stamp
programs administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).
'IT WOULDN'T WORK ....'
"They tried to pass this off at first as a tool that
would be beneficial to the workers. It just wasn’t true," Austin told
the UE NEWS. "Our opposition was based mostly on that it was
causing problems, that it wouldn’t work under its present form."
In leaflets and letters to state legislators, Local 893
blasted X-PERT as "poorly designed, ineffective technology" that if
successfully implemented could have led to loss of jobs and privatization.
"Part of the problem with X-PERT is that they were
putting out what was pretty much a project that was still in the developmental
phase, expecting us to work through it, expecting us to redefine their
computer system for them," Austin said.
Pilot projects were unsuccessful, Austin said; DHS repeatedly
pledged that the system would not be implemented until it was fully
operational. Then in 1997, borrowing from the private sector, DHS adopted a
"Just In Time" philosophy and attempted to introduce a product which
front-line workers knew was far from being completed.
THE LAST CRASH — $6 MILLION LATER
X-PERT was implemented for programs dealing with the elderly
and disabled population, including nursing homes and Medicaid. Although
implemented on a statewide basis, only 25 percent of staff were using the
computer software when the system crashed for the last time.
"After nearly 10 years and more than six million dollars,
the system still does not work," the union said in January when DHS
postponed until this summer an X-PERT upgrade already delayed since October.
That delay gave the UE local an opportunity to press the new
state administration and legislators to derail the program.
"The credit really belongs to everyone who contacted
their legislators with the facts about X-PERT," Austin said in a June 23
letter to income maintenance workers. "Now that we have succeeded in
stopping further implementation of this piece of technology it is time to
review where we are and more importantly, devise a strategy for the
Remember, Austin added, "The job you save may be your
UE News - 07/99