Today is Labor Day. As a nation, we pause for this holiday to honor working people and their contribution to building our country.
This year, we need to do more than just pay lip service to the importance of work. Iowans need to ask serious questions about why so many working families feel like they are getting beat up, no matter how many hours they put in.
More than 381,000 Iowa households say they struggle month to month to pay their rent or mortgage, car payment, child care bill, health insurance premiums, and other basic needs.
Because more than two-thirds of the jobs in our state pay less than $20 per hour, many Iowans are working two and three low-paying jobs to pay their bills.
Iowa needs to build an economy that helps working-class families get ahead. But too often, the leaders of our state are making choices that actually make life harder for working families.
Corporations are making record profits, but working people aren’t getting a fair a return on their labor. The economy is out of balance with too much wealth in too few hands. That means that too many towns and communities are struggling, especially in Midwestern states like ours.
It wasn’t that long ago when Iowa made different choices. In the 1960s, I grew up in Spencer, Iowa, a small town where the meat packing plant provided good jobs for the surrounding area. My Dad was a truck driver and my Mom worked behind the counter at the Sears & Roebuck catalog store.
In that time, many more working Americans had the opportunity to stick together in unions. With a union, they used their power to make corporations hear their concerns. They used their power and negotiated to raise wages to help families move ahead. A rising wage floor helped entire communities thrive.
When I joined the workforce as a registered nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, I banded together with my co-workers to start a union so we could speak out about staffing levels, our pay, and our work-life balance.
But today it’s getting harder and harder for working people to join together in unions.
Wealthy donors have pushed Governors and other elected leaders to strip away workers’ freedom to organize a union. This year, Iowa’s Governor and the legislature took away union rights from 184,000 working Iowans. Nurses and frontline caregivers where I worked lost the right to sit down with administrators to negotiate over patient care and work policies.
As a result, it’s easier for corporations in Iowa to get away with keeping wages as low as possible. Earlier this year, the Governor and legislature responded to the demands of corporate lobbyists and actually lowered the minimum wage in our largest counties.
Falling wages and too many bad jobs are holding our state back. To rebalance the economy, we need to guarantee that people working in jobs that are the future of our economy have the freedom to join together in unions. When working people stick together in a union, they gain the power to raise wages and hold corporations and politicians accountable.
Stronger unions and more bargaining power for people who work in today’s growing service and healthcare jobs will raise Iowa’s wage floor. More purchasing power for working families across the state will generate more economic activity and a rising standard of living.
That’s why we need to make it easier for working Iowans to form unions and worker organizations. Working people need a strong, independent voice on issues like family-sustaining wages, access to affordable healthcare, and education.
I’m a mom and a grandma. I’m so proud to be an Iowan. But I’m deeply concerned that our state has lost our way. Too many of our elected leaders listen to powerful corporate interests and ignore the rest of us.
Our state should work for the many, not the few. Iowa should make choices that give hardworking families more say about jobs and our government.
We need leaders who make it their job to help working families raise their standard of living. That means giving working people the power to form unions to raise wages and build inclusive prosperity.
Candidate for Governor