Iowa Democrats back Deere workers, Republicans mostly silent

Prominent Iowa Democrats were quick to express solidarity with United Auto Workers members who went on strike at midnight on October 14. But Republican officials were mostly silent as Iowa’s largest strike in decades began.

The work stoppage affects some 10,000 UAW members, of whom about 6,500 are employed at John Deere facilities in Waterloo, Ankeny, Davenport, Dubuque, and Ottumwa. Earlier this week, about 90 percent of UAW members voted to reject the company’s contract offer—a remarkable consensus, given that more than 90 percent of workers participated in the vote. Although Deere’s profits have increased by 61 percent in recent years, and CEO John May’s salary increased by about 160 percent from 2019 to 2020, the company offered workers only a 5 percent to 6 percent raise, with additional 3 percent raises in 2023 and 2025. Proposed changes to pensions also weren’t acceptable to most workers.

The last strike at John Deere plants began in 1986 and lasted for about five months. According to the Des Moines Register, the largest strikes anywhere in Iowa during the past three decades were a 1995 stoppage at Amana Refrigeration in Cedar Rapids, which involved about 2,000 workers, and a 2004 strike at Newton-based Maytag, involving about 1,600 workers.

The Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement supporting the Deere workers a few minutes after midnight, and many well-known Democrats added their voices throughout the day. I’ve enclosed many of those comments below.

Meanwhile, Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Joni Ernst, and U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) said nothing about the event directly affecting thousands of their constituents. Staff for Reynolds, Hinson, and Miller-Meeks did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

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How Republicans could tank Iowa maps without full chamber votes

The Iowa House and Senate will convene on October 5 to consider the first redistricting plan submitted by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA).

When the maps were published on September 16, I agreed with the conventional wisdom that the GOP-controlled legislature would reject the proposal, because it creates a Democratic-leaning Congressional district in eastern Iowa and keeps Dallas County with Polk County in the third district. However, as the special session approaches, Republican sources increasingly expect the Iowa House to approve the plan–if it comes to a floor vote.

That’s why the Iowa Senate seems poised to reject the proposal, possibly without letting it reach the floor in either chamber.

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Redistricting commission opts not to advise lawmakers on Iowa map

Iowa’s Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission reported to the Iowa legislature on September 27 about public feedback on the first redistricting plan offered by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

In contrast to the last four redistricting cycles, the five-member commission did not recommend that state lawmakers accept or reject the proposal when they convene for a special session on October 5.

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Court gives Iowa politicians until December 1 to adopt new maps

Iowa Supreme Court justices finally let the public in on the secret.

Under Iowa’s constitution, authority to enact legislative maps (but not Congressional maps) passes to the high court after September 15. But a September 14 order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen gives the legislature and governor until December 1 “to prepare an apportionment in accord with Iowa Code chapter 42,” which outlines the redistricting process Iowa has used since 1981.

High-ranking Republicans have indicated for months that they expected the Iowa House and Senate to be able to vote on new maps after the constitutional deadline, but the judicial branch’s spokesperson would not confirm whether justices or their representatives gave private assurances to key lawmakers. Bleeding Heartland’s request for written correspondence between the chief justice and legislative leaders produced no responsive records.

The court could have clarified months ago that it planned to proceed in this manner. But better late than never.

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"Vaccine Hunter" Todd Brady running for Iowa Senate in Ankeny

A Democratic challenger has emerged in the Iowa Senate district now represented by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, the upper chamber’s top Republican since 2018. Todd Brady announced on July 21 that he’ll run for the seat in Ankeny, a growing suburb to the north of Des Moines.

Brady has a computer science degree from Iowa State University and is best known as the creator of the Vaccine Hunter website, where thousands of Iowans scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations when appointments were scarce in the late winter and spring. Disclosure: in April, that website helped me find an appointment for my older son.

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Iowa OSHA's call for "immediate" action on COVID-19 came too late

Eleven weeks after beginning to inspect workplace safety at the Iowa capitol, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) informed legislative leaders about conditions “that may expose workers to COVID-19 hazards.” OSHA recommended “immediate corrective actions where needed,” as well as a review of safety and health practices “to ensure consistency” with advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines

What took them so long?

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