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Union supporters gather at Capitol

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | FEBRUARY 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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DES MOINES — Anger spread from neighboring states to Iowa on Tuesday and stood outside the state’s Capitol wielding picket signs and waving flags.

Several hundred protesters stood outside the Capitol Tuesday, voicing their support of labor unions and thrusting signs reading “Solidarity” and “People Before Profit” into the air.

Members from the University of Iowa and the Iowa City community were among the throng of labor-union supporters responding to negotiations in Wisconsin and supporting Iowa union rights.

UI Ph.D. students and members of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students traveled to Des Moines with 25 people.

“We have to stand together for what workers in the past have bled for,” Altman said, cheering and waving his own sign in the air.

Protesters have flocked to the Capitol in Madison, Wis. after Gov. Scott Walker proposed measures to restrict collective bargaining to fix the state’s budgeting woes. The rumble in Wisconsin has sparked a national outcry in defense of unions.



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But despite the protests, Gov. Terry Branstad emphasized that this is Iowa and not Wisconsin, and he is not proposing changes at the level seen in Wisconsin, said spokesman Tim Albrecht.

“He’s proposing a different set of reforms that really are designed to give Iowans back their seat at the table,” he said.

Still, the governor intends to take action to try to save part of the contract former Gov. Chet Culver signed with state workers last year. The agreements are locked into place for at least two years but can be reopened by labor leaders, Albrecht said.

Branstad’s proposal would remove health insurance from collective bargaining.

But the measure would not change bargaining to the extent of Wisconsin’s bill, Albrecht said.

A House subcommittee discussed a bill re-evaluating collective-bargaining rights Tuesday afternoon.

Albrecht said Iowa officials want to see more “back and forth negotiations” and not agree to have every labor demand met.

Wearing a “We are Your Neighbors” sticker on his winter vest, Ed Alcock, an American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees member and UI maintenance worker, stood on the outskirts of the crowd in Des Moines. Alcock said he was there to support both Iowa and Wisconsin.

Altman also said he attended to support Wisconsin union rights — rights he felt were in jeopardy.

Iowa is not the only state taking part in the national outcry. Members of the Graduate Employment Organization at the University of Illinois held a rally outside the university that led to a 24-hour vigil.

One Iowa legislator is confident the bill won’t go far.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said the bill has a slim chance to become a law in the Democratic-led Senate.

“We got a lot of really good public employees: doctors, nurses, teachers,” said Mascher, who formerly served on the labor committee. “They are your neighbor, my neighbors … we go to church with them. Taking away rights from those people right now is mean spirited.”


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