Protesters greet Branstad in Iowa City

BY NINA EARNEST | MARCH 11, 2011 7:20 AM

David Scrivner/The Daily Iowan
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Gov. Terry Branstad tried to explain his job creation plan in Iowa City Thursday, but was met with protesters angry about his views on collective bargaining and fiscal policies.

The governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds visited the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce as part of the “Jobs for Iowa” tour.

Protesters gathered outside by the intersection of Washington and Gilbert Streets before the presentation, holding signs reading “Terry Needs a New Job” and “Branstad’s Iowa: Pigs, Poker, and Prisons.”

Adam Roberts, a UI postdoctoral research fellow and Campaign to Organize Graduate Students member, said the members of various unions were concerned about bargaining rights, especially in light of Wisconsin Republicans forcing through legislation eliminating those privileges Wednesday night.

“The attack on workers in Wisconsin is an attack on workers everywhere,” the 27-year-old said.

He said the protesters concern extends to a bill — now listed as House File 525 — that would cut bargaining rights for Iowa labor. The proposal seeks to prevent unions from bargaining over health insurance, retirement, and layoffs.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the bill won’t pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Branstad told The Daily Iowan after the session he would be willing to reopen negotiations with the unions.

“This is not Wisconsin. This is Iowa,” he said. “I’m trying to work within the system.”

Roughly 70 people crowded into the conference room of the chamber, including the roughly dozen protesters.

Branstad outlined the plan, including efforts to lower commercial property and corporate income taxes and attracting external businesses. He said he’s willing to be held accountable for a plan to reach 200,000 jobs over the next five year and raise family incomes 25 percent.

“But we need the tools, the opportunities, and we can go out and market it,” Branstad said.

But the discussion became more heated as the group entered a question-and-answer session. The assembled protesters began interrupting the governor, questioning some of his proposed policies.

The governor tried to calm the protesters, saying he wanted to make a difference in the state.

“You may not agree with it, but the people of Iowa elected me,” Branstad said. “And I want to work with the legislators of both parties to do everything we can to grow the state and bring the jobs and economic opportunity we need.”

Several attendees applauded as the governor finished his comment. But the discontent and yelling continued as the meeting came to a close.

Roberts said he wanted the governor to answer questions about the “brain drain” — the exodus of young, educated Iowans to other parts of the nation and world.

“Creating jobs is how we come at the brain drain … The more we can have jobs, the more we can keep people here,” Branstad told the DI.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he was disappointed to hear the meeting had turned out to be “uncivil.”

“But I also think that our governor needs to understand the level of frustration and, actually, the level of hurt that he’s causing families, students, and small businesses,” Jacoby said.

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