For unions, electing Democratic governor would be a good start

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A little help. That’s what union members are looking for from Iowa’s next governor.

“A governor who would listen to working people’s concerns,” Hawkeye Area Labor Council President Kelly Steinke said at the group’s annual steak fry Saturday night.

“A governor who’s not afraid to stand up for working people,” added Executive Director Rick Moyle.

In the wake of the 2017 legislative session, in which Republican majorities reduced Iowa’s collective bargaining law to a shell of its former self and reduced workers’ compensation benefits, union members are looking to reverse what they see as an anti-labor mind-set.

“That would be a good start,” Moyle said.

But it might not be enough, he cautioned.

“If you reverse what the Republicans did this year, you still haven’t made any headway,” Moyle said. “We need someone who will fund education, somebody that can put together a budget that’s good for everybody, not just the elite.”

Most of the eight Democrats seeking their party’s nomination were on hand for the steak fry, as well as 2nd District U.S. Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, who delivered the keynote speech.

Some of the 150 or so union members there already have made a choice.

Scott Devore, a former Machinist Union member, said state Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines “is the kind I want.”

Boulton got the attention of many union members as a leader of the Democratic opposition to changes in the workers’ compensation and collective bargaining laws.

“He’s a borderline millennial,” Devore said, “not a lifelong politician.”

Jerry Hageman, a Communications Workers of America member from Waterloo, has heard most of the candidates, but he’s not ready to commit.

“It’s early to be endorsing,” he said, noting the primary election isn’t until June 2018.

Electing a Democratic governor would be a good start, Hageman said, but might not be enough.

“The governor needs at least one chamber of the Legislature on his side,” Hageman said.

There’s a chance Democrats will be able to win back control of either the House or Senate, Moyle said.

“Because of the overreach by the Republicans, I think people are starting to pay attention,” he said. “They’re starting to say, ‘We voted for them. We made a mistake.’ ”

Labor issues won’t be the only ones important in the gubernatorial race, said Judy Ryan, the wife of a Cedar Rapids Teamster, “but they’re the foundation for the others.”

Steinke hopes Moyle is right, but said winning control of the Legislature “is probably not a one-election fix.”

GOP attacks on unions and labor are hurting Iowans and the state’s economy, added Donna Gladish.

“We’ve bottomed out,” said Gladish, who has been a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers and National Association of Post Masters. “We’re like the South, and who wants to be like that?”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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