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Labor Day serves as time to reflect on organized labor in Iowa

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The Hawkeye Area Labor Council’s Annual picnic was definitely festive and a good time to celebrate many jobs well done but some leaders say it’s also a time to reflect on the political climate and remember that they have strength in numbers.

Hawkeye Area Labor Council Executive Director Rick Moyle saw major problems for workers in Iowa’s last legislative session.

“The Iowa legislature gutted public sector collective bargaining in the state of Iowa, attacked numerous workers’ rights and stripped worker’s compensation in a lot of ways,” says Moyle.

Proponents of the law wanted more local control. Critics argue it eliminates the right to collectively bargain for areas like health insurance, overtime, wage increases, seniority and other health and safety matters for many public workers, other than public safety employees.

Moyle says the changes are grabbing the attention of many.

“The more you attack working people the more they're going to become involved and engaged and they're going to start to learn that hey we need to educate ourselves on the issues,” says Moyle.

Workers in the private sector are watching closely.

“They're going to come after us next after the public sector but we're holding our own,” says Patrick Loeffler. President of Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council.

Outside of the political spectrum many skilled trades are fighting a constant battle to keep up with workforce demand.

“60% of the jobs on the market are trade skill industry jobs so there’s going to be a big shortfall coming up and we're taking a hard look at this and recruiting really hard,” says Loeffler who is also a leader of the area Carpenters Union.

He says expanding partnerships with high schools and community colleges are having a noticeable impact.

“We went from 4 to 5 years ago from 40 to 50 apprentices and we're up to 180 apprentices on a consistent basis now.”

He believes the impact on public sector bargaining will actually strengthen unions across the board.

“It's a trickle-down effect, it's not just the public sector workers, it's their families and their communities that they live in that are affected by this so I think you're seeing a lot of support of the unions ramped up here in the near future,” Loeffler says.

Moyle says people need to educate themselves and vote for pro labor candidates if they want to further protect worker rights.

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