Iowa communities will suffer if bargaining rights are weakened

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For most people, getting a job offer might be the best thing that happens to them all week, maybe all year. For me, the highlight of my week is when someone else gets a job. That’s because as a Workforce Advisor for the Iowa Department of Workforce Development, my job is navigating others toward good paying careers they can believe in.

It’s a calling I’ve been lucky enough to do for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, as Iowa lawmakers are poised to make significant changes to collective bargaining rights, the clients I place, the businesses with whom I collaborate, even the Iowa cities and towns that benefit from a thriving workforce, may soon suffer.

My role involves so much more than just finding someone their next gig. I sit down with my clients—often people who’ve been laid off or downsized and are at their most vulnerable—to get their lives back on track.

For some, that means returning to school for a new certification, or getting the training they need to pursue a different career path. Other times, that might mean sitting down with someone to write their resume for the very first time. Almost always, it means listening to people, helping them cope as they struggle to get back to work, or helping them sign up for unemployment insurance to get them through tough times.

My goal, however, isn’t only about finding people decent, secure jobs. I’m also a matchmaker. One the most important roles I play is assisting employers in identifying the qualified, talented people that make their businesses run. That’s one of the most satisfying aspects of what I do.

Because when hard working employees are paired with good companies, all Iowans benefits. In the end, it’s really about creating prosperous communities.

Underlying all of this is my ability to advocate for my clients and for my team at the Department of Workforce Development.

If collective bargaining in the state of Iowa is curtailed, though, the number of people like me placing workers in good jobs will shrink. If staff shrinks, lag times for filing un-insurance claims will spike, and the number grievances we’re able to file on behalf of employees may dwindle.

It doesn’t end there. You’ll begin to see the most seasoned public employees—those with the deepest connections to local business and the most experience in placing unemployed Iowans in good paying jobs—leave public service for other industries altogether.

As we’ve witnessed in other states, damaging collective bargaining rights hurts not just employees, but entire communities. It drives down wages for all working families and take away our voices on the job.

If lawmakers are serious about maintaining a vital Iowa, they’ll preserve our rights to bargain collectively.

• Allison Ritchie is a 15 year state eployee and labor representative on the State of Iowa and AFSCME negotiating committee.

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