DES MOINES — Democrat Cathy Glasson bills herself as the “bold progressive” in the race for her party’s nomination for governor.
That includes recognizing her campaign staff’s decision to unionize.
The staff voted unanimously Monday to join the Campaign Workers Guild, a union that represents the interests of political campaign workers across the country.
The Glasson campaign says it is the first in Iowa and just the second gubernatorial campaign in the nation to unionize.
“A union no matter where you work isn’t just something we say in TV commercials,” said Glasson, president of SEIU Local 199 representing thousands of nurses, health care workers and school support employees across Iowa. “It’s a real value we’re living and breathing every day.”
Glasson, a registered nurse who led the effort to unionize at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics 18 years ago, said she agreed “on the spot” when the Cedar Rapids-based staff approached her with its plan to join the union.
“I’m honored to recognize the Campaign Workers Guild and proud that every one of our front-line workers has joined the union,” the 59-year-old nurse said.
Glasson was challenged in February by the Republican Party of Iowa, which asked whether the central tenets of her campaign — a $15-an-hour minimum wage, universal health care and collective bargaining rights — were being applied to her campaign staff.
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“Like a lot of so-called ‘bold’ progressives — from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. — Glasson takes a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to her own campaign,” a party spokesman said.
According to the campaign, Glasson is walking the walk. Her full-time staff was receiving full health care coverage and were among the best paid in the state. As a result of the new contract, part-time campaign staff also will receive full health care benefits. Glasson’s campaign workers also bargained for a salary increase for field staff, an increase in campaign expense stipends and an increase in reimbursements.
According to a campaign announcement, the Glasson campaign’s full-time staff already received full health care coverage and was among the best paid in the state.
As a result of the new contract, part-time campaign staff also will receive full health care benefits. Glasson’s campaign workers also bargained for a salary increase for field staff, an increase in campaign expense stipends and an increase in reimbursements.
“We’ve had a fair wage and full benefits from day one,” said executive assistant Katie Wilson. “But the campaign is truly putting its money where its mouth is. We have a union on the job now, and we were able to collectively bargain for even better treatment for all our workers.”
Full health care benefits for full-time campaign staff is “rather rare,” a Glasson spokesman said, and coverage for part-time workers is almost unheard of. Generally, it’s up to campaign workers to find their own health care coverage.
That shouldn’t be the case, according to Glasson field organizer Nora Taft, who challenged the five other Iowa Democratic gubernatorial campaigns to follow the lead of the Glasson staff.
“It’s time more Democratic candidates and campaigns lived up to their labor values the way Cathy has,” Taft said. “I hope our move to unionize opens the door for other campaign workers across the state and the country to do the same thing.”
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Glasson noted that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and the GOP-controlled Legislature approved legislation last year severely limiting public employees’ collective bargaining rights “and put up even tougher hurdles to voting in union elections.”
“It’s time to stop talking and start acting,” she said. “Restoring Chapter 20 protections for public employees is the bare minimum we should do.”
Glasson wants to go further and said “every Democrat running for governor or the Legislature must commit to finally eliminating all of Iowa’s so-called right-to-work laws next year and passing bold measures to make it easier for every Iowa worker to join a union.”
“If we want workers’ votes, we have to prove we’ll fight hard for their right to join a union,” she said.
Glasson is facing five other Democrats in the June 5 primary for the gubernatorial nomination. They are state Sen. Nate Boulton; political activist and former agriculture official John Norris; retired businessman Fred Hubbell; Iowa State University diversity officer and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn; and physician and former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire.
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