Editorial: Restore the right to vote for all Iowa felons

iowa supremeA year ago the Iowa Supreme Court issued a splintered decision on Iowans’ constitutional voting rights that left an important question for a future case. Such a case appears headed to the court, and it could restore this fundamental right to thousands of Iowans.

Iowa is one of just three states — including Kentucky and Florida — that permanently disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters with a record of a felony conviction. Convicted felons in Iowa must apply to the governor for restoration of voting rights after completing their sentences. Few go to the trouble, however, which is understandable given the intimidating bureaucratic process.

As a result, these Iowans are forever denied a right that is fundamental in a free society even after they have paid their debt to that society.

That is wrong, but a fix will not be easy.


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Iowa City gives nod to first phase of minimum wage increase

raise the minimum wageIOWA CITY — Iowa City’s elected leaders concurred Tuesday they should let the first phase of Johnson County’s higher minimum wage rule go into effect, meaning that the wage threshold will increase to $8.20 an hour next month in the county’s largest city.

That said, Iowa City Council members also expressed a strong desire to conduct a comprehensive analysis on the county wage ordinance’s impact on area employees, employers and non-profit organizations — something several council members said was severely lacking.

“I think it’s agreed that we should do an analysis. It should have been done before this was passed,” member Susan Mims said.


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Labor History

October 08
Thirty of the city’s 185 firefighters are injured battling the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for three days – 1871

Structural Building Trades Alliance organizes in Indianapolis with goal of eliminating jurisdictional strikes that were seriously disrupting the industry and shoring up the power of international unions over local building trades councils. Conflicts between large and small unions doomed the group and it disbanded six years later – 1902

In Poland, the union Solidarity and all other labor organizations are banned by the government – 1982

Upholsterers’ Int’l Union of North America merges with United Steelworkers of America – 1985

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Labor Movement to Join White House in Momentous Effort to Lift Up Voices of Working People

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Labor leaders, working people gather for Summit on Worker Voice  (Washington, DC, October 6, 2015) – Tomorrow, the broad efforts of working people across the country will coalesce in Washington, DC as the White House convenes its Summit on Worker … Continue reading

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Deere-UAW contract passes despite Local 838 rejection

838 deere2WATERLOO | Members of United Auto Workers Local 838 in Waterloo didn’t rubber stamp the new six-year labor contract with Deere & Co. on Sunday.

Quite the contrary.

Local 838 members rejected the tentative agreement by a vote of 1,816 no to 859 yes, multiple union sources said Monday — about 67 percent against. However the contract passed by a wide enough margin within other UAW locals in the Deere chain it was ratified by a narrow margin.

Local 838 is the largest single local within Deere with about 2,700 members.


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Pledge for Marty Beil

pledge for martyDear Sisters and Brothers,

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 joins with our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin in mourning Marty Beil, the former executive director of AFSCME Wisconsin Council 24 who passed away last week.

Brother Beil was a long-time friend of AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and a fighter for working people. Across this nation today at 5 PM CST, AFSCME members will be lighting a candle in Marty’s honor.

We are asking our members to join in this vigil and take a picture of your candle. You can show your solidarity by posting your picture and a pledge of how you will carry on Marty’s fight in the comments of this Facebook post. Please include the hastag #PledgeforMarty with your Facebook comment.

As Mother Jones once said, let us “pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living.”

In Solidarity,
Danny Homan, President
AFSCME Iowa Council 61

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Who needs a General Assembly?

King-Branstad2Sometimes, you have to wonder why we bother electing a General Assembly. A governor, apparently, is all we need.

For fresh evidence, look no further than Gov. Terry Branstad’s Department of Revenue, which is seeking to hand the state’s manufacturers a nearly $40 million tax cut. But it’s not urging the Legislature to pass a bill. Instead, the department is simply rewriting its own administrative rules.

“The governor’s office has decided he has the authority to give a massive tax cut to Iowa’s largest corporations,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He points out that the governor, in July, vetoed funding for public schools, universities and community colleges, citing a need for budgetary restraint.

“The cookie jar is apparently replenished,” Bolkcom said.


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Labor History

October 07
Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, born in Gavle, Sweden – 1879

The Structural Building Trades Alliance (SBTA) is founded, becomes the AFL’s Building Trades Dept. five years later. SBTA’s mission: to provide a form to work out jurisdictional conflicts – 1903
(Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits follows the history of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO from the emergence of building trades councils in the age of the skyscraper. It takes the reader through treacherous fights over jurisdiction as new building materials and methods of work evolved; and describes numerous Department campaigns to improve safety standards, work with contractors to promote unionized construction, and forge a sense of industrial unity among its autonomous and highly diverse affiliates.)

Hollywood’s “Battle of the Mirrors.” Picketing members of the Conference of Studio Unions disrupted an outdoor shoot by holding up large reflectors that filled camera lenses with blinding sunlight. Members of the competing IATSE union retaliated by using the reflectors to shoot sunlight back across the street. The battle went on all day, writes Tom Sito in Drawing the Line – 1946

Union Communication Services

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World to See How Bad TPP Is After Final Deal Reached

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After negotiators reached a final deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made the following statement: We are disappointed that our negotiators rushed to conclude the TPP in Atlanta, given all the concerns that have been raised by … Continue reading

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Three months after vetoing education funding, Governor seeks to unilaterally give $37 million on-going tax cut to big corporations

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  Branstad’s attempt to bypass 150 legislators is ‘outrageous’   Statement by Senator Joe Bolkcom, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee   “This July, when Governor Branstad vetoed the $56 million, one-time funding compromise for Iowa’s local students, … Continue reading

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Growing Number of IA Survivors Celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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DES MOINES, Iowa – This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Iowa and the yearly event is among the reasons why the number of survivors continues to grow across the state and nationwide. The death rate from breast cancer in … Continue reading

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raise the wage iowa

The Iowa City City Council is going to be talking about the minimum wage this Tuesday at 5:00 pm and WE NEED YOU THERE!

City Councilors have only heard from businesses that are opposed to increasing the wage and need to hear from the majority of residents that know an increase is good for our community.
This could be the most important meeting of the minimum wage fight.
Iowa City Council Work Session
Tuesday, October 6
5:00 pm
Council Chambers
Iowa City Hall
The North Liberty City Council will be discussing the minimum wage this Thursday, October 8 at 6:30 (not this Tuesday).

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Share your concerns about Iowa’s Medicaid privatization

If you are concerned about Governor Branstad’s reckless privatization of Iowa Medicaid, make your voice heard. Senate Democrats are holding listening posts to hear what you have to say about Medicaid privatization. Here are the listening posts that have been … Continue reading

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Labor History

October 05 A strike by set decorators turns into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, Calif., when scabs try to cross the picket line. The incident is still identified as “Hollywood Black Friday” and … Continue reading

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Don’t take talkers’ comments at face value

wage raise the wage

The shameless way the public debate can be distorted never ends. Case in point: discussion about the minimum wage.

If you were in Eastern Iowa this morning listening to Simon Conway’s program on WMT-AM radio, you would not have an accurate idea of what happened in Seattle, Washington, following that city’s first step — to $11 — toward an eventual minimum wage of $15. Confusion on this issue has occurred in Johnson County, where supervisors have approved a $10.10 minimum wage by 2017.

Peter Fisher
IPP Research Director

What actually occurred, as Peter Fisher of the Iowa Policy Project has pointed out, is that job numbers rose in Seattle after the wage was raised. See his Aug. 25 guest opinion in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Excerpt:

There is also misinformation flying around about Seattle, which took the first step toward raising the minimum wage to $15 in April of this year. What actually occurred is that overall employment in Seattle grew after the wage was raised. … The idea that restaurants closed because of the wage hike turned out to be a myth — the owners of the four restaurants in question reported that wages had nothing to do with their decisions.

New job numbers since then show jobs to be up in Seattle — both overall and in the restaurant and drinking places category — and both over the year and since the first step of the minimum wage increase. While it would be a mistake to suggest the minimum wage is responsible, the leisure and hospitality category alone shows a net gain of 1,100 jobs since the higher minimum went into effect.*

Much number-crunching is yet to be done to enhance understanding about how the Seattle increase is now affecting and ultimately will affect the labor market in that area. But the fact that the scare tactics have had little substance behind them has been pretty clear from early on. See this Seattle Times story. Or this Forbes.com story.

The lesson here is not that the minimum wage increase caused an increase in jobs in Seattle — but that it’s ridiculous to say it hindered jobs.

That is, of course, if you are at all interested in the facts.

Owen-2013-57Posted by Mike Owen, Executive Director, Iowa Policy Project
Learn more about Iowa issues with the minimum wage on our website, www.iowapolicyproject.org
* seasonally adjusted jobs, Washington State Employment Security Department.
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Dubuque Working Families Summit

Click here to register for the Dubuque Working Families Summit

Click here for more info on Summit

WFS Dubuque-01.gif 2

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Quick changes to Iowa Medicaid are reckless

Iowa Senate Democrats blog updates Many Iowans are expressing concern about Governor Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program. If fully implemented, the Governor’s decision would have negative impacts on Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens and Iowa’s healthcare providers. We … Continue reading

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Rally celebrates one month until first of three Johnson County wage increases

AR-151009971.jpg&MaxW=1388IOWA CITY — Workers, community members, and justice officials met in the Iowa Pedestrian Mall to celebrate Johnson County’s minimum wage increase ordinance Thursday.

Ralliers held signs and chanted into megaphones “No one should be working poor” to support the measure, which was approved earlier this year.

“Toady we are one month away from implementing one of the simplest tools to fight poverty in our country,” Iowa City Federation of Labor President Jesse Case said. “We have a third of our kids in our school district who are on free or reduced lunches. Our social service programs are overburdened. It’s been eight years since the wage was raised in the state, and its too long nothing stays stagnant for eight years and it’s time to raise the wage.”


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Labor History

October 03 The state militia is called in after 164 high school students in Kincaid, Ill., go on strike when the school board buys coal from the scab Peabody Coal Co. – 1932 The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding … Continue reading

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Stop garnishing Social Security benefits to pay off student loans

IMG_9615Social Security benefits traditionally have been protected from debt collectors. But Republicans in Congress—always looking for an opportunity to cut Social Security benefits—created a loophole in 1996 that allowed outstanding federal student loan debt to be taken from the benefits that help recipients pay for medication, food and basic necessities.

Right now, more than 700,000 people currently getting Social Security benefits are still paying student loans and 160,000 of them are having their Social Security checks garnished to pay off student loans. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can stop this outrageous practice right now.

Sign the petition urging Obama and Duncan to issue a moratorium or an administrative solution to stop the garnishment of people’s Social Security benefits to pay for their student loan debt.

Stagnant wages and an increased debt burden for America’s workers are likely to push more and more working people into retirement with student loan debt in tow. Most people receiving Social Security rely on this income to survive. Garnishing these funds means it will be harder for people to pay their bills and care for their families.

The good news is we don’t need an act of Congress (thankfully) to change this. Obama and Duncan have the power to change this—either through a moratorium on this practice or administrative measures.

We should be finding ways to help the young and old afford their education and their retirement. Sign the petition to President Obama and Secretary Duncan now asking them to stop garnishing Social Security benefits to pay off student loans.

In Solidarity,

Liz Shuler
Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO

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