Iowa Educators and First Responders Call on Legislators to Focus on Real Problems

Public workers to lawmakers: "Reject reckless changes; stand up for quality education, health care, and public safety"

DES MOINES, IA (01/05/2017)(readMedia)-- DES MOINES – An experienced group of Iowa public servants including teachers, nurses, law enforcement officials, transportation workers, and fire fighters today called on lawmakers not to attack education, public services and workers' rights in the upcoming legislative session.

Front-line workers discussed why they've chosen to dedicate their lives and careers to serving Iowa communities, and how their ability to advocate for quality service and negotiate professional standards as members of the Teamsters, ISEA, AFSCME, SEIU, and Fire Fighters unions improves working, living, and learning conditions for all Iowans.

"We are the bus drivers who transport your children safely to and from school, the paraprofessionals who assist the child with autism in the classroom, the school nurse who assists children with insulin shots and tummy aches, the teachers who direct the fall musicals, and the coaches that lead the football teams onto the field for the big Friday night games," said Kelly McMahon, a kindergarten teacher from Cedar Rapids. "The members of ISEA take great pride in the work we do, because we understand that strong public schools make up the heart and soul of the communities we work in each day."

Long-standing laws have protected Iowans for years by ensuring adequate staffing levels, recruitment and retention of top talent, quality public schools, and efficient public services. However, some members of the legislature have proposed drastic changes during the coming legislative session-including reckless, failed approaches similar to those that have already devastated schools, professional standards, and state budgets in states like Kansas and Wisconsin.

"Legislators cast these changes as being about nothing more than numbers, but they are so much more. Sitting down to negotiate with our employers allows us to conduct our duties professionally and hold our industry accountable," said Adam Choat, a 10-year law enforcement officer and Teamster from Central Iowa. "It allows us a chance to talk about training, equipment and safety concerns on the job. It allows us to form new initiatives to combat the criminal trends occurring across our state."

The new legislative threats arise at a moment when schools and public agencies are already suffering effects of a series of state corporate tax give-aways that have starved budgets for education and essential services. Such cuts have already reduced the number of employees available to teach students, respond to emergencies, maintain roads, or care for vulnerable Iowans.

"When I started my job 18 years ago, there were four times as many employees in my office as there are today," said Sean Passick, a transportation worker and AFSCME member from Des Moines. "Yet meanwhile our city continues to grow. As a result of reductions in staff and more roads to maintain, we have all quadrupled our job duties to make sure the job gets done. Sure, I could get more money and do half the work for a private-sector contractor, but I take pride in serving the public and contributing to the local quality of life."

As the legislature prepares to start next week, public employees called on lawmakers to focus on voter priorities like creating good jobs, funding education, and rebuilding Iowa infrastructure-instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on attacking workers and trying to silence the voices of front-line providers.

"I became a nurse to serve my patients, my community, my city and my state," said Som Baccam, a registered nurse in Des Moines. "I am extremely concerned that the Iowa Legislature is planning to enact significant changes in Iowa law that will have even more devastating consequences for our patients and our communities. So today I'm calling on our Governor and the 2017 Legislature: keep your hands off any changes that will ultimately hurt Iowans' education, health and well-being by hurting everyday heroes like us."