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State Government News

Union Sues the Prison System

photo by Kate Ter Haar/flickr

The state’s largest public employees union is suing the Iowa prison system over the right to wear anti-Branstad pins at work. 

AFSCME is taking its case to district court after an unfavorable ruling from the Republican-dominated Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. 

AFSCME workers at the state prison in Coralville donned the protest buttons in 2011 after Gov. Branstad’s partial veto of a budget bill forced closings of unemployment offices around the state. This jeopardized jobs of state workers.    

The buttons showed an unflattering picture of the governor with a red slash across it and the words, ”NOTHING HAS CHANGED.” AFSCME had also protested a Branstad veto in 1991.   

In 2011 prison officials ordered workers to take the pins off arguing the buttons interfere with prison decorum and threaten public safety.  AFSCME says barring the pins violates the right to union activity in the workplace.  

An administrative law judge sided with the union, but last week the three-member Public Employment Relations Board ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections.   Now Polk County District Court has been asked to hear the case.  

The one member of the Public Employment Relations Board whose voter registration is independent also sided with the union.