“Perhaps” union contracts will be renegotiated

Governor Chet Culver is the guest on tonight’s “Iowa Press” program.  It airs at 7:30 p.m. on Iowa Public Television and is rebroadcast on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.  Culver addressed a variety of budget issues, the film office situation and Terry Branstad’s reentry into politics.

Here’s the Radio Iowa story about what Culver said during the nearly half-hour-long show and after in a Q&A session with reporters gathered in the IPTV lobby for a 10-minute news conference.  The subject matter is reopening union-negotiated contracts, with the goal of negotiating reduced salaries as a means of staving off some state worker layoffs. Here’s the key quote:

We have signed contracts that we will honor and talk about, perhaps,” Culver told reporters this morning.  “So, it’s premature to know if we are going to change those agreements.”

Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, is traveling and unavailable for comment.  (There are other unions which represent state workers in contract talks, but the largest number of state employees belong to AFSCME.)  UPDATE:  Homan’s response is as follows:

“It would be unfair for me to comment on any possible future negotiations by AFSCME with the state of Iowa.  Representatives of AFSCME,  who make up the union bargaining team, have worked very hard to settle contracts that are fair to workers and ttaxpayers. I am obligated by law to negotiate a contract every two years and I have fulfilled my obligations.  If there are future negotiations they will be conducted with the full bargaining team and in fairness to them I will not be commenting at this time.”

Toward the end of the program, Culver addressed concerns raised on Monday by Rev. Keith Ratliff, president of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter of the NAACP. Ratliff endorsed Republican Bob Vander Plaats bid for governor, in part, because Ratliff contends Culver hasn’t moved quickly enough to address minority hiring concerns in state government.

Here’s a transcript of the closing moments of the show:

Henderson: “Are you at fault for not moving quickly enough to answer the complaints of minorities who are applying for jobs in state government?”

Culver: “We are moving very quickly.  We are making real progress. We’ve created a diversity council, for example.  We’ve required, for the first time ever, that state employees go through diversity training.  We’ve hired additional staff at the Department of Administrative Services to make sure that we’re giving those types of opportunities to applicants seeking jobs with state government.

“Reverend Ratliff is a friend of mine.  Everyone has to make a choice when it comes to candidates run for governor, but another thing happened this week.  Wayne Ford, the longest-serving African-American legislator at the capitol endorsed my candidacy and had a lot of nice things to say about progress we’ve made when it comes to diversity.”

Mike Glover of the Associated Press asked Culver for his reaction to former Governor Terry Branstad’s decision to run for governor.

Culver: “Well, first of all Mike, I love being the govenror of the great state of Iowa.  I’m a fifth generation Iowan. I love this state passionately and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve nearly three million people a day as governor.”

Glover: “Do you love Terry Branstad as much?”

Culver: “I welcome Terry Branstad to the race.”

Dean Borg of Iowa Public Radio: “How does that change the dynamics of that race, to be going against a former governor, if he gets the nomination?”

Culver: “You know that’s for the political pundits to figure out.”

Borg: “No, that’s for you to figure out if you want to be reelected.”

Culver: “No, no.  You know what I have to figure out Dean?  I have to figure out how to balance this budget.  I have to figure out how to help this state rebuild from the floods.  I am working tirelessly every day to do both.”

Glover: “And do you anticipate a tough fight with Terry Branstad? Do you anticipate a tough reelection regardless of who…”

Culver: “You know, my father has always said 24 hours is a long time in politics and that’s….”

Glover: “I think he said 24 hours is an eternity in politics, but…”

Culver: “Sometimes it can be that, too, but the point is no one knows.  We have no idea how many candidates  might still get in the race for governor.  There is a June primary, so I think that a lot of developments will occur between now and June and then we’ll have two nominees eventually.”

Borg: “We don’t have eternity here.  We’re out of time.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.