|AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.|
Thanksgiving Day Message
November 24, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
What are five things you’re thankful for? It’s not often that we pause to count and reflect on the things that make such an impact on our lives. This Thanksgiving, I hope you will take time to be intentional about remembering these things that are too often overlooked.
I also hope you will remember that, while some of us have Thanksgiving as a time to rest and relax, many are hard at work. In our Union, many are working in order to keep the public and vulnerable Iowans safe. Unfortunately, others are working simply because their retail employers are holding “door-buster” sales on Thanksgiving Day. These employees are often paid low wages and risk losing their job if they don’t work holiday hours. I will not be shopping on Thanksgiving Day, and encourage you to do the same. Voting with your wallet is a powerful thing, so please remember those employers who choose to give their workers the day off, and those who do not.
Please also remember our service men and women who are away from their families this holiday season serving our country and keeping us safe. May they know how thankful we are for them.
Today, I am thankful for my country, my family, our Union, my friends, and each and every one of you. I wish you and your family a safe, warm, and happy Thanksgiving.
Veterans Day Message
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This week, our nation held an election. Many of you, myself included, were probably disappointed in the results in many of the state races. In the days since those results came in, preparing for Veterans Day has helped me put things in perspective.
Each and every one of us is blessed to live in a nation that chooses its leaders on Election Day, rather than having them chosen for us. As Americans, we owe that freedom to many who took part in the continuing process to make our nation a more perfect union: our founding fathers, the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the labor unionists, the civil rights activists, and the many who continue the push for justice and equality to this day. Today, we honor those who gave so much to protect our freedom: America’s veterans past and present.
Without the sacrifices of America’s veterans, this week’s election would not have happened. Beyond our nation’s borders, a significant portion of the world enjoys freedom and democracy thanks to the sacrifices of our veterans and the veterans of our allied nations.
Today, please take a moment to recognize any veterans you may know, as well as their families. Continue to recognize them on all the days to come by supporting the services and opportunities they need.
This Veterans Day, I will be thinking of all the veterans who are still with us, as well as the many who are not, and the many sacrifices they have made.
Danny Homan, President
AFSCME Council 61
United States Army, 1971-1973
Statement on Shooting of Two Police Officers
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement in regard to the early morning shooting of two police officers:
"We are completely devastated for the families and colleagues of the Urbandale police officer and the Des Moines police officer killed early this morning. No words can accurately reflect the horrific nature of this cowardly ambush attack.
Keeping our children safe is job #1. Your free child ID kit should help your peace of mind.
BUDGET CUTS PROMPT SAFETY COMPROMISE AT IOWA MEDICAL & CLASSIFICATION CENTER Read more >>>
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the layoff of nine IT employees at the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH): Read more >>>
Labor Day Message from the President
Sisters and Brothers,
I recently saw a post online that was a great reality check. It read, “Thank God for a three-day weekend! No, thank a Union.” What a great reminder of how easy it is to let the accomplishments of the labor movement fall to the wayside. We wonder why, nationally, union membership is declining? Maybe it’s because the rights afforded to younger workers are taken for granted.
We don’t often talk about the Sisters and Brothers who gave blood, sweat, tears, and yes – even their lives, for the workplaces we now know as “the norm.” Norms such as a 40-hour work week, benefits, safer working conditions, paid holidays, and so many more. They sacrificed so that we could live better, happier, safer lives, because they knew that together, we are so much stronger.
Let me be clear; the fight is not over. There is much to be done, and many victories to be had. Your rights as public employees and Union members across our state and country are under attack. Whether it be failed privatization schemes, outsourcing gimmicks, or just plain Union-busting tactics, politicians like Terry Branstad are hoping we don’t fight back, that we put up our white flag. Boy, do we have a surprise for them. You see, workers do just that – we work. We don’t give up; we never quit.
So how do we continue to grow and build our power? We build each other up. We go to the non-members and share with them what our Union means to us, what our Union does for us, and how each of us joining together multiplies our collective force. Together, as one voice and one Union, our potential and promise is limitless.
This Labor Day, talk to your kids, coworkers, or friends about the hard fought victories of the Labor movement. Enjoy the day off with those you love, and remember the Sisters and Brothers who earned it. Have a safe Labor Day weekend.
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the Friday evening assault on two correctional officers, among other incidents, at the Clarinda Correctional Facility: Read more >>>
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding a judge court-ordering a predatory inmate to Woodward Resource Center: Read more >>>
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the Sunday evening assault on two correctional officers by an inmate at the Clarinda Correctional Facility: Read more >>>
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the PEOPLE Committee’s vote to endorse Lt. Governor Patty Judge for U.S. Senate: Read more >>>
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the dangerous conditions at the Iowa State Penitentiary (ISP) in Fort Madison: Read more >>>
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding Iowa Department of Corrections nurse Jesse Vroegh: Read more >>>
DOT CLOSURES DEAL A BLOW TO RURAL IOWA
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the announced closure of eight Iowa Department of Transportation facilities:Read more >>>
An Independence Day Message from the President
July 4, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Independence Day is often spent donned in stars and stripes and watching a fireworks display overhead. This year, when you unpack lawn chairs or spread out a blanket, take a moment to appreciate who is next to you.
Just last week, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 lost two sisters, Laurie Hathaway and Francine Jacobs. Both of these women spent their lives fighting for dignity and justice for their coworkers in their workplace. Unfortunately, every week AFSCME Iowa Council 61 loses members who fought the good fight, both in their workplaces and in their lives, and all will be greatly missed. Their passing should remind us just how precious family is and the impact of the bonds which unite us as sisters and brothers. While you enjoy a well-deserved break, take care of yourself and those around you, and appreciate everything from the holidays to the ordinary days you share together.
Have a safe Independence Day.
Danny Homan, President
CLARINDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY RESTRUCTURING ENDANGERS SPECIAL NEEDS INMATES, STAFF Read more >>>
STAFFING CHANGES AT CLARINDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY ENDANGERS INMATES, STAFF, AND THE PUBLIC
May 30, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
May 25, 2016
AFSCME members are proud of how we improve our communities. We do this every day through our work and through our involvement in our communities outside of work.
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 is partnering with Johnson County Public Health to promote smoking cessation among AFSCME members, their families, and our friends and neighbors all across Iowa.
Quitting smoking or chewing can be difficult, but Iowans don’t have to do it alone.
Did you know that Quitline Iowa has FREE tobacco cessation assistance available online or by phone for all Iowans?
Quitline Iowa pairs tobacco users with a Quit Coach® to help them develop a quitting plan and determine if patches, nicotine gum or lozenges, or another medication would help them quit for good.
If you or someone you know could benefit from quitting tobacco, visit www.quitlineiowa.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) to learn more and enroll.
Danny Homan, President
Supported by DP13-1314 National Networks to Reduce Cancer and Tobacco Related Disparities.
April 28, 2016
AFSCME Local 1796 (Humboldt County) recently made a $600 donation to an Honor Flight and a $300 donation to Relay for Life. Thank you AFSCME Local 1796 members!
April 8, 2016
Four minutes. Five minutes. Ten Minutes. To typical people on a typical day, these may not seem like long periods of time. But for three Pottawattamie County Dispatchers and AFSCME Local 2364 members, that’s how long they were on the line on three calls that saved lives. On April 7, 2016 Dispatchers Jamie Watts, Scott Vandervort, and Brandon Kea received Life Saving Awards in recognition of their excellent work on those three calls.
Jamie Watts has been a dispatcher for about two years. She was recognized for work on a 3:00 AM emergency call that happened when the caller found his friend, a nineteen year old, suffering from a drug overdose and not breathing. Using the Emergency Medical Dispatch Program, she gave the caller step by step instructions on how to perform CPR. After four minutes, the first emergency responder, a police officer, arrived and took over CPR until paramedics arrived.
When she heard she would be receiving a Life Saving Award, Jamie said “some days as a dispatcher can be very tough because you never know how a call is going to end when it starts. It feels good to know that all the hard work and training we do is getting recognized by our community.”
Scott Vandevort has fourteen years of experience as an emergency dispatcher. However, he’s being honored for a scenario that he has only encountered maybe “eight to ten times” in his career: giving instructions for infant CPR. The call in question began when a grandmother called 911 to report that her eight month old grandchild was not breathing. Scott had to calm down the grandmother and give her instruction on infant CPR, which is very different that CPR for an adult or child. Emergency services arrived after five minutes and the child’s life was saved.
Although he was honored with a Life Saving Award, Scott noted that the “the main reward is that it feels great to help save a child’s life.”
Brandon Kea has been a dispatcher since October 2009 and is also the AFSCME Local 2364 president. The call he was recognized for was a long one – ten minutes. A young man called to say that his father was nonresponsive. For ten minutes, he provided CPR by following Brandon’s instructions.
“Most people do not realize how physically exhausting it is for someone to perform CPR for ten minutes. The kid did an excellent job. When I later heard that the caller’s father had lived, I was so happy to find this gentleman will have more time with his family and that the caller will be able to take pride in knowing that he saved his father’s life,” said Brandon.
The three Live Saving Award recipients represent all three shifts of dispatchers at Pottawattamie County. As Jamie noted, “Pottawattamie County dispatchers just rock – 24/7. With our emergency services partners we make a great team that’s always there for the people of Pottawattamie County.”
March 31, 2016
The newest issue of the Iowa Unionist, the newsletter of AFSCME Iowa Council 61, is available for download! Click "Read more" to reach a page where you can download it.Read more >>>
Iowa’s courts require the work of many public employees to function. Many of those employees work directly for the courts but others work for local governments such as counties. Iowa’s Sixth Judicial District includes Linn County, Iowa. This year, the district chose to give its “Friend of the Court” Award to two AFSCME Local 231 members who work for Linn County government: Senior Facility Workers Joel Snetzler and Joyce Sramek. Senior Judge Nancy A. Baumgartner said “they were each given this award in recognition of the excellent work they do and for how well they take care of the buildings and the people who work inside them.”
Joel Snetzler maintains the Linn County Courthouse and was commended for his tireless work in restoring the building after it recently suffered burst pipes in the middle of the night. Joel said that it was “surprising and humbling” to receive the award and added that “the people I work with at the Courthouse are outstanding.”
Joyce Sramek maintains three Linn County buildings, including the Juvenile Justice Center. The Cedar Rapids Gazette noted that the Judge who nominated her, District Associate Judge Barbara Liesveld, called her an “unsung hero working behind the scenes.” Joyce said that the work she does is “rewarding” and that “everyone works really hard to make sure these buildings are able to run.”
The thoughts of AFSCME Local 451 members could be summed up in one word: “Enough.” After a fight in the dining room at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) resulted in injuries to four staff, two of whom had to seek medical treatment outside the facility, and the escape of two inmates from the Correctional Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility, they knew it was essential to raise public awareness of the challenges they face every day at work.
“We have been worried about staffing issues for a long time. After the fight in the dining hall, members came together to support everyone who was hurt. We knew that we had to make sure the public knew about our concerns about safety,” said Lisa Anderson, a Correctional Officer at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women and Local 451 member.
After discussions with council staff, a petition was created to call on the Iowa Department of Corrections to issue pepper spray to ICIW staff and to address critically low staffing in correctional facilities and community based corrections. Local 451 members recruited members, friends, and family to attend a Rally for Staff Safety outside the Department of Corrections Central Office.
At the rally, President Homan was able to announce that the Department of Corrections had reversed its position and will allow ICIW and North Central Correctional Facility staff to carry pepper spray like staff at all other DOC institutions. However, staffing remains critically low, which endangers staff, inmates, and the public. At the rally, President Homan said “no state facility should be understaffed. We need to provide the appropriate staff so that these hard working folks that are here behind me can go do their job in a safe environment.” He noted that massive declines in staffing had affected every DOC institution: for instance, Iowa State Penitentiary had 570 staff at the end of FY 2003, but only 394 staff at the end of FY 2015 (the last completed fiscal year).
“Lack of staffing is something that our members at Newton and Mitchellville have been facing every day. Staffing keeps getting less and less. I’m proud of everyone who took part in the rally - we are all in this together,” said Nate Ross, a Newton Correctional Facility Correctional Officer and Local 451 President.
President Homan also noted that staffing is a major challenge throughout government. He told how a known sexual predator was transferred to Independence Mental Health Institute. Due to a shortage of staff, a Resident Treatment Worker had to bathe this patient alone and was sexually assaulted by the patient.
At the conclusion of the rally, the petition with 601 signatures was delivered to Deputy Corrections Director Dan Craig.
March 10, 2016
DES MOINES –AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following response to a statement (see this Radio Iowa story) issued by the Governor’s Office yesterday:
“The Branstad-Reynolds Administration is trying to paper over a simple fact: staffing at the Department of Corrections and Community Based Corrections is critically low. Here are the facts:
1) The Governor should be ashamed of himself for trying to turn the safety of employees into a Republican versus Democrat issue in the first sentence of his office’s comments. He’s trying to ignore a life and death issue by attacking my party affiliation instead. Neither I nor anyone involved with the rally ever said anything about political parties in connection with it. The workers at yesterday’s rally have a wide variety of political views. They do not care about the party affiliation of the Governor or I. They care about their safety on the job.
2) The rally yesterday was requested and organized by the workers themselves. Here’s one of the reasons why they are so concerned: The number of payroll warrants issued by the Department of Corrections in the last pay period of FY 15 was 2,609. A year prior, it was 2,713. That’s a decline of 104 staff from FY 14 to FY 15. During the same period of time, the prison population increased from 8,174 to 8,233.
3) Terry Branstad was Governor at the end of FY 98. At that time, the DOC issued 2,736 payroll warrants, which is 127 higher than FY 15. The prison population then was 7,431, which was 802 lower than FY 15. If he felt that was an appropriate staffing level then, why doesn’t he think it should be at least at that level today?
4) Terry Branstad is the Governor now. Lt. Governor Reynolds is the Lt. Governor now. They can try blame others – their predecessors, the workers, our Union. But the fact is the buck stops with them. And the recent fight at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Woman and the escapes from the Correction Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility show that their policies are failing.”
March 8, 2016
By Clyde Weiss, AFSCME International
For Louise Lex, a longtime member of AFSCME Local 3450 (AFSCME Iowa Council 61), the theme of this year’s National Women’s History Month, which runs through March 31, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government,” is a way of life.
Lex, 86, epitomizes AFSCME’s motto, “Never Quit.” She has been working in public service as an Iowa state employee for 37 years. Her current position – health planner for the Iowa Department of Public Health – puts her in the center of the state’s efforts to keep its citizens healthy.
Lex has a longtime interest in how unions – particularly AFSCME – have championed social justice in the workplace and in society. She wrote her master’s thesis on the subject of AFSCME’s own history and its leadership in extending Social Security to state and local public service workers. It is called “The AFSC&ME: A Study of Public Employee Unionism.”
That was 59 years ago, in 1957. Lex was 27.
A graduate student in political science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Lex chose AFSCME as the subject of her thesis because she was “looking for something where I could tap primary data,” and AFSCME’s national headquarters at the time also was in Madison. “I was able to look at all the records, and I was able to interview all of the people who were there,” including Arnold Zander, then-president of AFSCME. “For somebody doing research, that’s just a treasure trove.”
AFSCME’s leadership in the campaign to extend Social Security “was fascinating to me because there was one heck of a lot of resistance,” Lex said. Other unions – and even some AFSCME affiliates – opposed the effort, fearing it would undermine their local retirement systems. AFSCME prevailed in 1954.
“For the first time,” Lex wrote in her thesis, “public employees who were under a state or local retirement plan (exclusive of the firemen and policemen) had the opportunity of coming under the old age and survivors insurance provisions of the federal Social Security law.”
After Lex earned her degree, she taught political science at Iowa State University, then took a job with the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (now an office in the Iowa Department of Human Rights), working with unions to get women into apprenticeship programs for nontraditional jobs, such as plumbers, carpenters and other building trades. “I had a background in labor economics from the University of Wisconsin, so it really fit very nicely,” she said.
Later, at the age of 47, she got her Ph.D. at Iowa State University, where she studied the women’s movement’s impact on elections of women to state legislatures. Then she entered the field of public health, working on substance abuse. She also volunteered with a minority women’s group in Des Moines.
Today, Lex coordinates the state’s health improvement program, called Healthy Iowans, and serves as state coordinator for a federal program called Healthy People 2020. When she is not working, Lex also volunteers with the Iowa Public Health Association and the American Public Health Association, and makes daily dinner visits with her husband at a nursing home.
“I want to be able to do something of value, and government work – it’s an ability to be able to help people. It’s more than just a job. That’s what makes me passionate about working as a public servant.”
Will she ever quit? Not likely. Her mother stayed active until she was 100. “Genetically, I should be able to live for quite a while,” said Lex.
Let’s hope so.
March 3, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
As public employees, AFSCME members work hard every day. We take pride in our work and we never quit. We know that the public counts on us to do our jobs – every part of our jobs.
Senator Chuck Grassley is refusing to do the job he was elected to do. He has decided that he can pick and choose which of his constitutional duties to carry out. As Chair of the US Senate Judiciary Committee he is refusing to even consider holding hearings on any US Supreme Court nominee regardless of who they are or their qualifications.
Senator Grassley should know better than to play politics with this issue. Failure to act will keep one the branches of our government from being fully functional for an unprecedented length of time.
It’s time for Senator Grassley to do his job. He should commit to holding hearings and moving towards a quick vote on a new Supreme Court justice.
Please call him today and make your voice heard. Please make sure to call from a personal phone outside of work.
Danny Homan, President
March 1, 2016
It's not only AFSCME that has talked about the decline in correctional staffing. As the former warden of Newton Correctional Facility noted in this article in the Newton Daily News, staffing at Newton Correctional Facility has declined from 391 to about 250. That's a decline of over 140 staff with the inmate count at a record high.
-Danny Homan, President
March 1, 2016
Yesterday, the three Des Moines news stations covered the recent escapes in Newton and the concerns our Union raised about staffing and the inmate classification system:
KCCI-TV: Escaped inmates remain on run
February 29, 2016
DES MOINES –AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding new information about the escape at the Correctional Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility:
“We have learned that one of the escaped inmates, Jessy Foley, previously escaped from a Community Based Corrections facility and was sent back to a Department of Corrections facility. This is yet another example of how the Department of Corrections inmate classification system is broken and needs to be addressed to protect Iowans.”
February 29, 2016
“The escape of these two inmates from the Correctional Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility on Saturday demonstrates the consequences of critically low staffing levels in Iowa’s correctional system. The staffing levels have been going down and this trend needs to stop.
“We must emphasize that the inmates at the Correctional Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility are not permitted to leave the grounds on their own at any time. If they work off site, they are to be picked up and supervised by their employer’s trained staff. Inmates at this facility should be supervised by DOC or their employer at all times. The escape of these two individuals is a serious matter.
“Five years ago the Department of Corrections discontinued running an around the clock perimeter vehicle patrol around the Correctional Release Center at Newton Correctional Facility due to low staffing levels. After this escape on Saturday, the perimeter was finally reinstituted on Sunday.
“Over the past several years, staffing at the Correctional Release Center has been reduced and we believe there may be plans to further reduce staffing levels.
“Additionally, the broken inmate classification system, which the DOC changed a few years back, is pushing inmates from higher security settings to lower security settings before they are ready. The pattern of misclassification of inmates in a hurried attempt to get them out of prison is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
“Due to the failure of the DOC to staff DOC Institutions and Community Based Corrections facilities adequately, the citizens of the Newton area and the State of Iowa now have to worry about two convicted felons being on the loose somewhere in Iowa. Does anyone remember the Clarinda Correctional Facility escape in 2013?”
February 26, 2016
News outlets have been covering the fight that led to staff injuries at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. Please read these stories and share them so that we can raise further awareness of these important issues:
WHO-TV: "Four Correctional Officers Injured in Women’s Prison Fight"
February 25, 2016
DES MOINES –AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the security situation at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville:
“On Tuesday, an inmate attacked a member of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) staff in the dining hall. A fight then broke out in the dining hall that involved multiple inmates and staff. The fight resulted in four staff members sustaining injuries. At least two of those four injured staff were taken outside the facility for medical treatment. One of those staff members received serious injuries to their face.
“From February 2015 to today there have been sixteen inmate assaults on ICIW staff. Six of those assaults resulted in serious injury to ICIW staff. Some of these injured staff were unable to continue working in corrections while others have been unable to return to full duty.
“Warden Patti Wachtendorf has consistently refused to give staff the tools they need to do their job in the safest manner possible. Unlike staff at almost every other state prison, Iowa Correctional Institution for Women staff are not issued pepper spray to carry on their person while working. Staff are expected to always use brute force when an inmate becomes violent. This is less safe for everyone – both staff and inmates.
“Warden Wachtendorf’s poor leadership is compounded by the lack of staff. The number of inmates at ICIW has been increasing while the number of staff has been decreasing. This has created a situation that compromises the safety of inmates and staff.
“Warden Wachtendorf needs to start taking safety seriously.”
February 11, 2016
DES MOINES –AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the Iowa Senate vote on Senate File 2125, which would halt the Branstad-Reynolds Medicaid outsourcing plan:
“Thank you to the 29 senators who stood up to vote for the bill to stop the disastrous Branstad-Reynolds Medicaid outsourcing plan. These 29 senators clearly heard and responded to the concerns of Medicaid patients, families, and providers. This vote should be a wake-up call to the Branstad-Reynolds Administration that they need to start listening to Iowans and abandon this plan that threatens the health care of over a half million Iowans.”
February 9, 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the next AFSCME Iowa Council 61 Biennial Convention in 2017 we will celebrate our council’s 40th Anniversary!
One of the ways we will celebrate this milestone will be the creation of an AFSCME Iowa Council 61 40th Anniversary Cookbook to benefit PEOPLE!
We’re getting an early start on collecting recipes because we want as many members as possible to submit recipes.
To submit a recipe, members should send us:
This information should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org from a personal computer/phone from a non-work location during non-work hours.
The submission deadline is February 15, 2017.
Members should also feel free to submit recipes from former members of their local as well. Just include the information above along with the former member’s name and local.
Thank you for helping with this project that will celebrate our history in a fun way!
Danny Homan, President
October 22, 2015
We are AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and we are AFSCME Strong! Check out this video featuring eighteen of your sisters and brothers! Contact your Union Representative or an Organizer to find out how you can get involved in AFSCME Strong!
We're Your Community. We're Your Neighbors.
AFSCME Iowa Council 61
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