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Iowa Pays Almost $500,000 to Fired Parole, Prison Supervisors

Non-union membership in the Hawkeye State apparently has its privileges, at least for parole and prison officials in management positions.

Between August 2011 and early 2012, when Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruled in their favor, 18 former prison and parole supervisors who claimed they were improperly laid off have collected nearly $500,000 in back pay.

The issue concerns “bumping rights,” which means that since ascending the correctional hierarchy and becoming managers, the terminated employees argued their seniority should have made them immune to pink slips, and lower-ranking union workers should have been fired in their stead. The PERB agreed and ordered state officials to remedy the situation.

To date, the largest single payout – $205,000 in back wages and benefits – has gone to James Twedt, 60, a senior parole judge and 25-year state employee who was laid off in March 2010.

“I was employed with certain expectations and rights, and my rights were violated,” said Twedt, who was reinstated to his job overseeing parole revocation hearings. “I would say that it turned out the way it should have.”

Twedt and the other terminated employees had been members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Iowa’s largest public employees union, until they accepted promotions to become managers and supervisors. A state rule and union contract provisions enabled them to maintain their seniority in the event of downsizing.

But former Governor Chet Culver, facing burdensome budget cuts, reached a deal with AFSCME to preserve hundreds of union jobs in exchange for unpaid furlough days and a suspension in contributions to worker pensions. The agreement also specified that supervisors facing layoffs wouldn’t be able to bump union employees.

The prison and parole supervisors filed grievances after their layoffs, which began in December 2009, while AFSCME and the state argued that the renegotiated contract between Governor Culver and the union should have superseded previous rules. The PERB, however, sided with the former supervisors.

Culver’s successor, Governor Terry Branstad, has refused to appeal the PERB ruling while state attorneys and a half-dozen other former correctional managers are still arguing their job termination cases.

Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, was peeved about Branstad’s inaction as well as Twedt’s $205,000 payout, which he called “a heck of a lot more than most of my members make.”

“I’m disappointed the PERB board made the ruling they made,” Homan added, “and I’m disappointed the current administration chose to accept the ruling instead of appealing.” He said the prison and parole supervisors should have lost their bumping rights after they were promoted and no longer union members.

Source: Associated Press

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