The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City union workers ask for wage increase

Unionized city employees have said their current wages are not keeping up with the rate of inflation.
Alyssa Miner
Local government Union workers Megan Vollenweider and Quintin Bryant stand in front of City Hall in Iowa City Iowa on Monday, Oct. 9th, 2023.

When Shaun Daly came to work for the City of Iowa City 16 years ago, he willingly took a pay cut because of how great the benefits were for city employees.

Now, with inflation so high, Daly said it almost feels like he’s taking a pay cut every single year.

Daly is an Iowa City employee who is part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 183, which is a labor union that represents eligible employees of Coralville, Iowa City, Tiffin, and Johnson County.

At the Iowa City City Council’s Sept. 19 meeting, members of the union spoke to the city council about how current city employee wages are not keeping up with inflation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, total inflation went from 1.3 percent at the end of 2020 to 8.2 percent in September 2022.

Tax reform on the state level has recently caused Iowa City to make less revenue from property taxes, which is the main revenue generator for the city. This means the budget for the next fiscal year may be a tight one.

RELATED: Johnson County poll workers to receive a $2 pay increase

According to the city’s website, property tax askings for fiscal 2024 are 2.28 percent higher than fiscal 2023.

In a proposal from Local 183 sent to the city council and obtained by The Daily Iowan, union workers are asking for a 7 percent overall raise for all employees in fiscal 2024. In their current contract, this overall wage increase is set at 2 percent for fiscal 2024.

The proposal states this increase will not only show the city’s appreciation for its city employees, but also help boost morale and reduce turnover.

Daly, who works in the city’s wastewater department, said he has seen many of his coworkers leave the city to take on better paying jobs elsewhere, leaving the remaining staff to pick up the slack. 

In the past decade, Daly said his department has reportedly been fully staffed for a total of three weeks.

Megan Vollenweider, another Iowa City employee and vice president of Local 183, said lagging wages have not only impacted her work life, but also her personal life. 

She said she and her husband recently had to replace a broken car windshield for their shared car with money from their savings. This money will take a while for them to replenish, she said.

Quintin Bryant, the president of Local 183 and a city employee in the streets department, said the employees’ current contract was negotiated in 2020 before inflation really began to take off and thus doesn’t reflect the current economic state.

Bryant said wage negotiations with the city have always been fair, and the original proposed yearly wage increases were fair for early 2020 standards.

“This is just a once in a lifetime thing where inflation is just ridiculous right now,” Bryant said. “So that’s kind of why we’re coming to city council to see if they can help us a little bit.”

Bryant also said he has seen the impact of staffing shortages in his own department. He said his department oversees snow plowing and that employees sometimes have to work long hours for several weeks at a time because there are no other employees available to take on the necessary hours for plowing.

Vollenweider and Bryant said they are not sure exactly when discussions on a wage increase will take place, but they believe it will be sooner rather than later.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague wrote in an email to the DI that the city greatly appreciates the work of all its employees, unionized or not.

“We acknowledge AFCME union’s request to have conversations of their needs,” Teague wrote.  “I am certain this City Council will weigh their request but in the typical fashion of having closed door discussions with AFCME.”

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Alyssa Miner, Photojournalist
Alyssa Miner is a second year at The University of Iowa studying Enterprise Leadership and Studio Arts. Miner is a photographer for the Daily Iowan and captures wedding and senior photos in the summer.