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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Re-establishing Democratic governance

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

About this essay

I studied political science at the beginning of the 1970s at one of the elitist of universities, Stanford University. My graduate school class, if not all radicals, shared a serious critique of American government and the military-industrial complex, the Vietnam war, the academic privilege and not freedom that embodied the Stanford administration, and the failure for society to listen to youth and follow-through on the vision expressed in the decidedly liberal document, The Port Huron Statement.

I returned to Iowa in 1975 feeling alienated and full of angst at my better understanding of the darker side of American politics. But I had no clue how to contribute to changing it. Fortunately, I found a group of 20-somethings in Iowa – largely through the Community Action Research Group (Iowa’s Public Interest Research Group) – doing that work in the policy field on the environment. They connected me to a job at the Iowa Welfare Association funded by the Compensatory Education and Training Act, the federal jobs program that provided nonprofits with funding to create jobs. It gave me space to learn and grow, as it did for others in my group.

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Lessons from Bessemer

Buzz Malone is organizing director of Teamsters Local 238. -promoted by Laura Belin

Regardless of the outcome of the unionization campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, the efforts of workers there have delivered a powerful message to the nation.

Enacted 86 years ago, the National Labor Relations Act sent an equally powerful message to companies large and small: that workers have inalienable rights of free speech, legally protected concerted activity for economic improvements, and the right to form, join, and assist a union of their choosing.

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Cutting unemployment during pandemic is immoral, wrong

Charlie Wishman is president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO. -promoted by Laura Belin

The COVID-19 pandemic has been not only a public health disaster, but also an economic disaster. Many Iowans have experienced filing for unemployment for the first time this past year. As a result, many now realize just how important this lifeline can be for working people and their families. 

You can tell a lot about what kind of legislature we collectively elected by looking at how lawmakers respond to the economic disaster that is COVID-19. Right now, the Republican-controlled Iowa House and Senate are moving a bill forward that would reduce unemployment benefits, inexplicably, during a global pandemic. 

Are we as a state going to continue to allow the rich to stuff their pockets during this pandemic while families suffer? Or worse, will we actively encourage it? Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening now.

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Open letter to Ann Meyer on teacher recruitment, retention

Republican State Representative Ann Meyer introduced a bill to address a pressing problem for Iowa schools. Randy Richardson argues we don’t need a new task force to figure out why students aren’t becoming teachers or why teachers are leaving the profession. -promoted by Laura Belin

Dear Ann,

I read with great interest House File 101, which you introduced this week. As you know, the bill calls for the creation of a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force consisting of 21 people appointed by the Iowa Department of Education director. The task force will study why students aren’t entering the teaching field, why many teachers are leaving the profession, and what can be done to attract a more diverse group of teaching candidates.

A reasonable person would assume that the task force would be made up of a large number of teachers, since they would offer some key insights into the issues. Unfortunately, your bill requires the appointment of only three teachers (and one of them can come from an Area Education Agency).

While the intent of the bill is laudable, the need for a task force to determine why this is an issue is laughable.

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A call for responsibility, accountability, and compassion in the new year

Ras Smith represents Iowa House district 62, covering part of Waterloo. -promoted by Laura Belin

Christmas, for me, is a season of spiritual tradition, personal reflection, and service to
community. Because my mom is a pastor, I had the fortune of growing up in a faith-filled church community. Today, my own children are blessed to experience a closeness to this family faith that instills in them the importance of loving and serving our fellow humans. This makes the holiday season even more meaningful.

As I reflect upon the year, I think about the thousands of Iowans who stepped up to help one another during a global pandemic. I think about people pouring into communities to clean up, provide food, build shelter, and give moral support in the wake of the devastating derecho. I think about the sacrifices of so many essential workers across the state. This is the unbreakable spirit of Iowa, and why I love living here.

But as I reflect further, my heart also hurts for families across the state who experienced preventable suffering and loss at the hands of poor leadership.

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