# Labor



Abby Finkenauer can build a winning coalition

Mary Jo Riesberg chairs the Lee County Democratic Party.

Abby Finkenauer is the Democrat who can defeat U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. Many factors make her candidacy not only stronger than the other Senate candidates, but one that can offer a boost to those down ballot.

She will represent Iowans as we sit at our kitchen tables discussing the struggles we face in our day-to-day lives. She will be the senator we need to help Iowa and the United States adjust to the “new normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the many changes needed for the future.

No matter how much people say they are ready to have Grassley out of office, it will still require a coalition of voters to defeat him.

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A storm's coming. It's time to act

Bruce Lear suggests many ways communities can help educators combat new threats to Iowa’s public schools.

On summer days when we need a shirt change by noon, and the breeze rustling the leaves feels like a winter furnace out of control, Iowans know there’s a storm coming.

They also know action is needed before it hits. They call the kids in and fasten down what could fly. They move their cars to a safer place, check flashlight batteries, and find the candles. Then they head for the basement to ride out the storm.

Only the foolish stand outdoors to shout at the wind. Only the naive rely on hope.

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Where things stand in Iowa House district 89

Bleeding Heartland’s legislative campaign coverage has tended to focus on battleground districts. But next year, Democrats will have more open seats than usual in solid blue Iowa House or Senate districts.

Although those races won’t affect control of either legislative chamber, they could be important for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Lawmakers from safe seats may rise to leadership positions at the statehouse or run for higher office someday. So I intend to keep a close eye on contested primaries in some districts that won’t be competitive in November.

One such race is shaping up in Iowa House district 89, where long-serving State Representative Mary Mascher announced last month that she will not seek re-election. Three Democrats are actively campaigning here. The newest contender, Tony Currin, will take several advantages into the primary.

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The obscene attacks on Iowa's public schools

Bruce Lear reviews how Republican-backed laws have adversely affected Iowa schools.

There’s some real obscenity in Iowa public schools, but it’s not the kind Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman has been ranting about.

Speaking in November at a packed school district meeting in Johnston, Chapman complained about two books and said he is drafting a bill to create a felony offense for distributing what he considers to be obscene material. Never mind that Iowa already has a number of laws about the distribution of real pornography. Chapman sees a need to single out teachers and librarians for making books he doesn’t like available to high school students. 

Like most wannabe book banners, Chapman probably hasn’t read the supposedly offensive books. He is also using public schools (which should unite communities) to further divide us.  

No, the obscenity is not in these books that Chapman doesn’t like. The real obscenity is what Republican legislators have done to Iowa schools. Here are some examples of the attacks on public schools, which are emptying classrooms of dedicated, teachers. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter famously said when deciding a pornography case, “I know it when I see it.” Let’s review the GOP’s record toward public schools and teachers.

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John Deere could have offered workers more

Only a week after United Auto Workers members ratified a new six-year contract with John Deere, the company announced record profits of $5.96 billion during the fiscal year that ended on November 1.

Tyler Jett reported for the Des Moines Register on November 24,

The company announced Wednesday that the new contract with the UAW will cost $250 million to $300 million. J.P. Morgan analyst Ann Duignan wrote in a note that she expects Deere to increase prices by 1.5% to offset its higher pay to workers.

That cost estimate appears to cover the immediate 10 percent raises and $8,500 ratification bonuses for each of Deere’s approximately 10,000 employees represented by UAW. The range of $250 million to $300 million would work out to between 4 percent and 5 percent of the company’s profits for the fiscal year that just ended.

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What UAW members gained with five-week strike

Iowa’s largest strike in decades is over after nearly five weeks. About 10,000 United Auto Workers members, including nearly 7,000 in Iowa, ratified the latest tentative agreement with John Deere by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent on November 17.

The offer was only marginally different from the agreement UAW members voted down on November 2 by 55 percent to 45 percent. But many workers appear to have been convinced that this was truly Deere’s “last, best and final” offer, as management repeatedly claimed. Some local leaders warned the company might not come back to the negotiating table, or could hire strikebreakers if the UAW rejected the offer.

The last time John Deere employees went on strike in 1986, it took more than five months to resolve the impasse. Hundreds of UAW members who voted no in early November were unwilling to roll the dice on going into the winter receiving strike pay of only $275 a week, with no guarantee the final deal will be better than today’s tentative agreement. Tyler Jett reported for the Des Moines Register that support for the tentative agreement rose among UAW members at all five Deere facilities in Iowa.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the hugely profitable equipment manufacturer could have offered its workforce more generous terms. On the other hand, the new contract improves greatly on the company’s first offer in October. By going on strike, the UAW obtained the following:

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