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Des Moines Register

Nurse Beaten Unconscious in Iowa

State law limits unions ability to bargain safety; putting public employees at risk

Brian Young's picture
May 29, 2019

Iowa’s decision to weaken collective bargaining for state employees is putting state employees at risk. This claim was made by the AFSCME Council 61 after a nurse was beaten unconscious at a state mental health facility.

The nurse, Tina Suckow who was attacked by the patient, was put in the hospital for weeks and required surgery. Although the attack happened in October, she is still recovering. After she was unable to come to work due to her injuries and the state denied her request for time off without pay, Suckow was fired.

According to AFSCME, a 2017 state law limits the ability of government employee unions to negotiate resolutions on issues other than salary, including safety matters. The law also resulted in changes in employee grievance procedures. The union believes that this change prevented them from being able to fairly represent Suckow.

“Any reasonable human being should have concern because if it’s OK for the state of Iowa to treat workers this way, then Casey’s can do it, Ruan can do it, any employer in the state of Iowa can do it,” said Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61.

The union also has said that since the law took effect, terminations and forced resignations have tripled. They also warn that hospitals are becoming understaffed putting both workers and patients at risk.

The law, which was passed in 2017 with the help of big money groups backed by the Koch Brothers, was recently upheld in a 4-3 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court.

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