116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Guest Column | Rick Moyle
It is that time of year when the Iowa Legislature storms back into session in an attempt to address issues they believe need addressed.
For the upcoming session, it has been made clear by Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Republican leaders that they will focus on the worker shortage in the state. That is a good idea and I have a few suggestions for them if they truly want to act in a manner that does not hurt this cause.
Try speaking to workers themselves about what their issues are, not just businesses. Raise the minimum wage in Iowa, because you actually lowered the minimum wage in the state in 2017 for 85,000 workers through House File 295 when you voted to preemptively take away local government control to raise minimum wages. The minimum wage has not been raised in Iowa since 2008.
Reinstate Chapter 20 as it was pre-2017; pre-Senate File 213. That legislation was simply an attempt to destroy public sector unions. As we told you back then, such an attack on public sector workers would force workers to look at other states for a career. We now have a major teacher shortage, for example. Your attempt to rid the state of unions failed and only further added to the existing worker shortage.
Roll back what you did through House File 518 in 2017, which guaranteed fewer injured workers qualify for workers’ compensation and those who do receive fewer benefits.
Tread carefully when you look at lowering unemployment benefits for workers who are unemployed by no fault of their own. Legislators need to do their homework when it comes to unemployment, as I am sure many in the golden dome have never had to make ends meet for a few weeks while between jobs after a layoff or a plant closing.
Wage theft is an epidemic despite years of trying to get Republican leadership to address the problem. Some businesses in Iowa exploit workers on a daily basis and when they steal their workers’ wages they answer to no one for it and receive no penalty. In 2012 The Iowa Policy Project (now Common Good Iowa) concluded Iowa Workers are robbed of $600 million a year.
I encourage all legislators to study Right to Work For Less laws and the negative impact they have on wages, benefits, and worker safety. These laws have nothing to do with providing rights or work. Take a look at lowest responsible bidder language so we can assure Iowa contractors are awarded bids on public projects.
After years of taking more and more away from workers, you now wonder why we have a worker shortage and our young blue and white collar workers are fleeing our state. One thing is for sure, no matter how much you try to force workers in this state to work for low wages and strip them of support when they are between jobs, Iowa will not come out the winner. You will only drive them away further.
We have tried operating as a low wage and benefit state. Perhaps it is time to actually start doing things that make the lives of Iowa’s workers better. — maybe give workers, instead of a corporate lobbyist, a voice and a seat at the table? Maybe — just maybe — by affording people respect, dignity and an honest day’s pay for their efforts we can actually make Iowa a state where people want to work and raise their families. That will require a different mindset for many legislators.
Rick Moyle is executive director of the Hawkeye Labor Council.