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April 12, 2014

Branstad administration may appeal ruling on pins

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad's administration is considering appealing a judge's ruling allowing state workers to wear pins critical of the governor.

Administrative law judge Jan Berry ruled March 31 that workers could display the pins on their uniforms or clothes, The Des Moines Register reported Saturday.

The pins were distributed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that says it represents 40,000 public employees in Iowa. The pins depict a black and white photograph of Branstad's face bisected by a red diagonal slash with the words, "NOTHING HAS CHANGED."

The Branstad administration tried to ban the pins after employees at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville wore them while on the job.

Administration officials told the newspaper late Friday that they consider the pins to be disparaging and might appeal the decision.

A supervisor made Coralville corrections workers remove the pins in 2011, saying they were "disrespectful, inappropriate and unprofessional."

State employees have a long-established right under state law to wear and display union insignia. But the state argued that the pins didn't expressly identify any particular union concern. The state also argued that corrections department policy requires workers to conduct themselves in a professional manner, and that the pins violated that rule.

But Berry rejected those arguments in this case, saying that the state assertions that the pins interfered with department operations and adversely affected discipline "are no substitute for evidence."

The state has 20 days from the March 31 decision to appeal. The Iowa Public Employment Relations Board also could decide to review judge's decision.

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