Guest Columnist

GOP bills raise red flags for Iowa workers

The State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The State Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

A new legislative session brings with it every year the chance for our elected officials to help not only their constituents in their respective districts but to help every Iowan by voting for good legislation and against bad.

For many sessions now, I’ve been submitting guest columns to call attention to bills that, if passed, would be harmful to working families in Iowa. I have called attention to bills that have passed that hurt our families as well.

I have red-flagged bills that have decimated workers compensation insurance, bills gutting the ability of public sector unions to bargain for working people and allowing unions to be charged for annual recertification votes (Iowa Code Chapter 20), bills eliminating Buy American standards and bills lowering the minimum wage by stripping counties of local minimum wage control and bills that make it harder for workers and their families to sue a responsible party if they have been exposed to asbestos. I’ve even warned about executive orders eliminating project labor agreements, hence allowing low-paying contractors from out of state to do our local work with little oversight. The list goes on and on.

Some of these bills have gone nowhere, but they refuse to die. One of these is SSB 1172, a reincarnation of SSB 1086 and HSB 42 introduced in 2019. These bills aim to gut unemployment insurance benefits in Iowa, and they’re back at the worst possible time for Iowa workers.

SSB 1172 requires a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment insurance payments. No week is more important than the first week, when families have not had time to make financial adjustments or make much headway in their job search.

This bill also lowers the benefit amount paid out to those with multiple dependents. We all know what it takes to raise a family. Cutting earned benefits in a time when families need it the most is cruel.

When an employer goes out of business, SSB 1172 lowers the number of weeks a person can collect unemployment by one-third from 39 weeks to 26 weeks. Many such closures involve the biggest employer in a rural community, meaning that not just families but the economy of entire towns could suffer.

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I cannot for the life of me understand how any elected official, regardless of party affiliation. can think that cutting unemployment benefits is an ethical concept anytime, let alone in the worst pandemic of our lifetimes.

The Republican-controlled Senate has also passed SSB 1065 and SF 159. It appears that they will not rest until they are successful at destroying public schools, all for the sake of supporting private schools with no public oversight. In a nutshell some of your public tax dollars would go to private for-profit schools. Once again, rural Iowa towns will be hit hard by this.

In the past few years, a mind-boggling amount of this crazy legislation has been proposed, and yes — some of it does actually pass. The only way we can stop this insanity is to educate ourselves politically.

That does not mean via TV or social media either. Elected officials need to be held accountable and voted out of office regardless of party affiliation when they partake in this form of insanity, disregarding its negative effect on Iowa families.

Rick Moyle is executive director Hawkeye Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO

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