# Labor

Will growing support for unions bring transformative change?

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register and the Substack newsletter Showing Up, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

In the spring of 1972, Dad brought a college scholarship application home from work, funds made available through his Hormel union, then the “Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen of North America,” now the less muscular sounding “United Food & Commercial Workers.” Applicants were required to take a proctored test about the history of the U.S. labor movement. Highest scores would be rewarded at several levels: $1,000 for first, maybe two at $500, probably several at $250.

Instructions included reading a particular book, something like “Mileposts in Labor History.” So, I’ll read the book, take the test, and win the money, ha. As I recall, I had a few days to make this happen, and eagerly swung by the high school library. Not surprisingly, the book was not part of the collection, nor was it in the town library. I did find several relevant volumes, however, one with more photos than narrative (Eugene V. Debs displaying anguish), a Samuel Gompers biography, and a history book with a Haymarket Square chapter.  

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Progressives win, book banners lose many Iowa school board races

Voters in Iowa’s large school districts overwhelmingly picked progressive candidates over conservatives on November 7. In many urban and suburban districts, candidates backed by local Democrats, the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), and/or the LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa Action ran the table, while candidates backed by activists on the religious right fell short.

The results are a rebuke to Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature, which enacted new laws in 2023 that undermined public schools and LGBTQ students, and restricted school library books and inclusive curriculum materials.

They also show the enduring strength of the state’s largest teachers union. For many years, Iowans elected school boards in September and city councils and mayors in November. The GOP trifecta changed state law so that beginning in 2019, school board and city elections would occur on the same day. The idea was to increase local election turnout and thereby diminish the ISEA’s influence over school boards. Nevertheless, candidates backed by public educators prevailed in many of this year’s most competitive races.

One city election also underscored how unpopular book banning is with Iowans. In the notoriously conservative town of Pella, voters rejected by 2,041 votes to 1,954 (51.1 percent to 48.9 percent) a ballot measure that would have empowered the city council to overrule the public library board.

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A win for workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Nate Willems served in the Iowa House from 2009 through 2012 and practices law with the Rush & Nicholson firm in Cedar Rapids. This essay previously appeared in the Prairie Progressive.

In August 2019, I filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of several current and former employees of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. We claimed UIHC was violating Iowa law by holding on to certain wage payments for too long before paying. As UIHC had a common payroll practice, we sought to certify a class action. Eventually, the U.S. District Court authorized the class action, and we took on representation of 11,000 current and former UIHC workers.

There was never any allegation UIHC entirely refused to pay workers. However, Iowa law requires a regular payday be within twelve days after the end of the period in which the wages were earned. For as long as anyone could remember, overtime, supplemental pay, pay for shifts that went long, and other types of premium pay were paid one month late. 

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Reflecting on the "Labor" Day impact on my patients

Dr. Emily Boevers is a Ob-Gyn physician practicing primarily in Waverly, Iowa. When not taking care of patients she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.

Labor Day: a celebration of American ingenuity, prosperity and economic achievements. Like Independence Day, this holiday requires ongoing recognition and defense of the important role that citizens play in its origins. From its inception as a labor union holiday to its current position as a day for the working-class people of America, this is a day for American workers to be recognized for the sweat and stress they contribute to the modern economy.

It is estimated that the women of America supply $21 billion per day to the US economy, not including unpaid domestic labor. Part of economic wellness is also a strong supply of the next generation of skilled workers. As an expert in maternal health, I cannot help but wonder at the limited recognition of women’s complex role in this measure.

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How Democrats can use Bidenomics to win in rural America again

Scott Syroka is a former Johnston city council member.

Democrats have a major opportunity to increase their appeal in rural America, thanks to the policy framework crafted by President Biden, which he laid out in his June 28 address on Bidenomics in Chicago, Illinois.

While Democrats have successfully embraced Bidenomics to pass legislation like the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and beyond, they haven’t done enough to champion Bidenomics through a rural-specific lens.

By using this framework to present a vision for an inclusive rural economy, rather than the trickle-down status quo of exploitation, Democrats can draw a clear contrast with their Republican opponents.

If they choose to seize this opportunity, Democrats can begin to stop the electoral bloodbath in rural areas, shrink the margins, and maybe even start to win again.

The forgotten history of America’s family farm movement and its fight for parity shows us how.

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When governing loses track of its purpose

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

One of the photographs of my father that I clearly remember appeared on the pages of the Bloomfield Democrat about 60 years ago.

Pop was standing chest-deep in a hole that had been hastily dug in the street on the Bloomfield city square. His face was grim. There was urgent work to be done, because much of Bloomfield was without water. 

An underground main had broken a block from the city’s water tower. Water was gushing into the street and flooding basements of nearby businesses. 

There, in that hole with water pooled at his ankles, Pop shoveled muck and mud to expose the leaking pipe so it could be repaired. 

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