Guest Columnist

Iowa GOP is harming workers

The House Chambers in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The House Chambers in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

With the 2019 Iowa legislative session off and running, it appears that some Republican legislators are not yet done proposing legislation that hurts Iowa workers.

I’ve found myself asking: “What can they possibly take away this session after gutting collective bargaining rights for public sector employees, chopping workers’ compensation for those injured on the job, lowering the minimum wage by stripping counties of the authority to set their own minimum, eliminating project labor agreements that assure local contractors are awarded contracts and making it harder for families to sue a responsible party if they or a family member has suffered due to asbestos exposure?”

Those are a few of the things our legislature “accomplished” in past sessions since Republicans took control.

And, after all of that, they have pre-filed Senate Study Bill 1086 and House Study Bill 42.

These bills are backed by the Iowa Association of Business and Industries — a lobbying group for Iowa businesses. The Des Moines Register has reported that as of Tuesday, 168 pieces of pending legislation on unemployment insurance eligibility were making their way through state legislatures across the country.

It appears very obvious that supporters of these unemployment bills believe us peon workers are receiving too much money from unemployment when we are unemployed through no fault of our own.

I guess that would hold true if you believe $385.19 a week is big money. That was the average weekly unemployment benefit paid to Iowa workers in 2018.

The bills would eliminate the first week of unemployment benefits unless you are unemployed for six months. Considering many Iowa workers live paycheck to paycheck eliminating the first week simply seems unnecessary and cruel.

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Many Iowans over the past 25 years have gone through business closings and have had to use unemployment. I’m one of them, so I can say with firsthand experience that it’s unfathomable that anyone would support a bill that cuts benefits by 33 percent when an employer closes. These bills reduce the amount of unemployment a worker in this situation may receive from 39 weeks to 26 weeks.

It is already hard enough to keep one’s sanity when you must worry about feeding your family, keeping the lights on, making a house payment, and assuring that your children have their basic needs fulfilled when you find yourself out of work. There is simply no ethical reason to lower benefits.

The bills also limit the number of dependents by 50 percent and eliminate the ability to claim a nonworking spouse.

The solvency of the Iowa unemployment trust fund is ranked ahead of all but 11 states according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As of January 2018 the fund had a balance of more than $1.1 billion according to Iowa Workforce Development.

Contact your legislators and tell them to kill these unnecessary, unethical, heartless bills.

• Rick Moyle is executive director of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council AFL-CIO.

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