# Labor



Iowans join Congress, Biden in forcing bad contract on rail workers

Every member of Congress from Iowa voted this week to force a five-year contract on the freight rail industry, as President Joe Biden had requested to avert a possible strike on December 9. It was the first time since the 1990s that Congress exercised its power to intervene in national rail disputes.

Four unions representing tens of thousands of rail workers had rejected the tentative agreement, which U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh helped negotiate in September. The main sticking point was the lack of paid sick leave. Instead,

The deal gave workers a 24% raise over five years, an additional personal day and caps on health care costs. It also includes some modifications to the railroads’ strict attendance policies, allowing workers to attend to medical needs without facing penalties for missing work.

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Fourteen Iowa Senate races to watch on election night 2022

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated with unofficial results from all the races. Original post follows.

The major parties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most competitive 2022 Iowa House and Senate races.

This post highlights seven state Senate districts where one or both parties have spent large sums, and another seven where even without a big investment by Democrats or Republicans, the results could shed light on political trends.

All voter registration totals listed below come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 1. All absentee ballot figures come from the Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 7. All past election results come from the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App.

All figures for in-kind spending by the Iowa Democratic Party or Republican Party of Iowa come from filings with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. I focus on in-kind spending, because candidates in battleground Iowa legislative races typically give most of their funds to the state party. The party then covers the bulk of the large expenditures for direct mail and/or television, radio, and digital advertising.

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Exclusive: Labor relations board shifts staff, cases to other agency. Is it legal?

Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is transferring most of its staff and caseload to the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Since the mid-1970s, PERB members and administrative law judges have adjudicated labor disputes within state and local government or school districts. Following the changes, administrative law judges now working for PERB will handle other matters, while other employees at Inspections and Appeals will hear cases that were previously in PERB’s jurisdiction.

State officials have not announced the changes, which are scheduled to take effect on September 30. It’s not clear who initiated or authorized the plan. Staff in the governor’s office and Department of Inspections and Appeals did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries over the past three weeks. PERB members Erik Helland and Cheryl Arnold likewise did not reply to several emails.

State Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat with extensive experience as a labor attorney, has asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an official opinion on whether “it is an illegal shift of an essential PERB duty” to assign its responsibilities “to an unrelated state agency.”

Boulton also asked Miller to weigh in on the legality of Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent appointments to PERB. As Bleeding Heartland previously reported, Reynolds has circumvented the Senate confirmation process by keeping one of the three PERB positions unfilled, so she can name her preferred candidates to a vacant slot while the legislature is not in session.

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Much to celebrate this Labor Day, but more work to do

Chris Schwartz is state director for Americans for Democratic Action and a Black Hawk County supervisor.

As we celebrate workers this Labor Day, it’s important to acknowledge it’s been a rough couple of years for American workers. Working families were battered by a pandemic that caused massive unemployment, loss of health coverage and financial hardship for tens of millions of working people.

But thanks to swift bipartisan action in 2020, Congress passed historic relief packages that helped workers, extended health coverage and protected the majority of Americans from COVID-19’s worst harms.

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Support staffs have earned our respect

Bruce Lear: Support staff personnel are often ignored or treated as disposable instead of essential. But they are the glue holding schools together.

After a long career as a carpenter, my dad took a job as the night custodian for the small school I graduated from. He worked 3:00 to 11:00. The people in the building loved him because he’d go out of his way to help. He loved the work, and he was good at it. 

One time I was on a break from college and my dad had the flu and couldn’t go to work. It was rare, but he called the school and then went to bed.

A few minutes after 3:00, I answered the phone. It was the school superintendent. 

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Rally in support of Ingredion workers on strike

Dave Leshtz is a member of AFT Local 716 and editor of The Prairie Progressive.

As a crowd gathered for a rally by Lucita’s Diner in Cedar Rapids on a hot September 1, two people in Union Yes! t-shirts shaded their eyes while looking up at the top of the Ingredion plant across the street.

“See that dust coming off the roof?” said one. “Yeah,” said the other, “that’s what happens when you have people inside who don’t know what they’re doing.”

The “people inside” are management personnel replacing the 120 workers on strike at one of the oldest and biggest factories in this city of 140,000 on the banks of the Cedar River. 

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