Statehouse News: Important Decisions Made Impacting Public Employees
Vilsack Appoints Wellmark CEO to Board of Regents
Last month Governor Vilsack appointed John Forsyth, CEO of Wellmark, to the Board of Regents. I wrote to the Governor asking him to explain how Mr. Forsyths appointment did not present a conflict of interest regarding our contract negotiations, since Wellmark is our health insurance provider.
The Governors General Counsel responded in writing, quoting Iowa Code Chapter 68B.2A: any person who serves or is employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not engage in any outside employment or activity which is in conflict with the persons official duties and responsibilities. However, he said that the section is not specific about the exact bases for determining eligibility or disqualification from appointment to public office, so the Governor relies on an Attorney General opinion.
The Attorney General has concluded that a potential conflict of interest does not preclude someone from taking public office, but that conflicts must be reviewed on a case by case basis and the appointee must take steps to ensure that he or she always acts in the best interest of the state office, including disclosing situations where a conflict of interest arises.
In a nutshell, Forsyth is now a Regent and it is up to us to be vigilant about his conduct. I encourage members and incoming officers to keep an eye on him and build solidarity with other unions, namely SEIU, that use Wellmark and bargain contracts with the Board of Regents.
Public Employee Bargaining Law Under Attack
The Iowa Legislature is in its final week and we have to stop a bill in the House that would hurt our rights to bargain as public employees. Background on this issue is at the bottom of this message.
One dangerous proposed change to Chapter 20 (the state law chapter governing our public employee rights) would require arbitrators to compare our economic package not just to other public sector packages but also to the private sector.
There are also proposals to PRIVATIZE many Department of Human Services jobs currently held by our union brothers and sisters in UE Local 893, not to mention the jobs of many public employees affiliated with other unions (e.g., AFSCME, SEIU).
PLEASE flood Governor Vilsacks office with demands that he veto any changes to Chapter 20. He met with union leaders on Tuesday and alarmingly, but not surprisingly, suggested that he would LIKE to see many of these harmful changes passed!! We need to have individuals contact his office and protest the proposed changes.
Contact Governor Tom Vilsack at: Office of the Governor, State Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA 50319. Also: phone his office at (515)281-5211 and e-mail him at http://www.governor.state.ia.us/comments/capitol_correspond/index.html.
--Lise VanderVoort (outgoing) President
Labor Solidarity Calls for Change at Coca-Cola and Sara Lee
At the April 24th General Membership meeting, members unanimously passed a resolution in support of Latin American Coca-Cola workers. This resolution draws attention to Coca-Colas shocking labor record in Columbia and indicates that workers at Colombian Coca-Cola plants continue to face kidnapping, torture, death threats, illegal searches, imprisonment, and assassination for union activity. Guatemalan Coca-Cola workers attempting to organize face intimidation and the violation of basic labor rights. This resolution calls attention to the fact that the University of Iowa maintains an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola and therefore benefits financially from the exploitation of foreign workers. The University should therefore hold the company accountable for labor and human rights abuses. The Resolution concludes as follows; Therefore, be it resolved: That COGS-UE 896 calls for an immediate end to the UI/Coca Cola contract, unless Coca-Cola agrees to protect worker rights in all bottling affiliates. That we stand in solidarity with Latin American Coca-Cola workers in their struggles to exercise their legal rights to free association and collective bargaining and to bring Coca-Cola, local bottling plant managers, and paramilitaries responsible for anti-worker violence to justice.
Labor Solidarity recently sent a letter to Sara Lee, criticizing their closing of a factory in Monclova, Mexico. Sara Lee is circumventing a Mexican labor law that requires the payment of three months severance pay to laid off workers by claiming the workers (mostly women) have resigned. The letter states; This chicanery will devastate the lives of the women in your employ who have dedicated their working lives to the profitability of your corporation.
While these companies continue to report outstanding profitability, their workers suffer from the tactics employed to keep labor costs down. COGS takes an active interest in workers rights, both here at the University of Iowa and also worldwide. For more information on the Coca-Cola and/or Sara Lee issues, contact the Labor Solidarity Chair at email@example.com or 337-5074.
-- David Correia Labor Solidarity Chair
COGS Celebrates Birthday at COGSAPALOOZA; Final Happy Hour Fri., 5/2
More than 80 COGS members convened at the Mill Restaurant Thursday night, April 3 to enjoy camaraderie, lots of pizza, and the talents of their fellow members. COGSapalooza this year featured many sure-fire hits, from the downhome banjo picking of Uncle Jesse (Sponholz) to the gymnastic stylings of president-elect Dana Quartana to the blazing guitars of the bands Skeptic Tank and Full Fathom Five. Thank you all for such a wonderful turnout to celebrate COGS birthday and the successes we have had this year both in organizing and at the bargaining table. Also, dont forget to join us for one last social event of the academic year: happy hour is Friday, May 2 at Joes Place. See you there.
--Kate Cady (Outgoing) Social Chair