Looking back at Labor Day’s turbulent origins

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By Peter Rachleff, Conversations Between the Past and the Present August 19, 2014 Monday, September 1, will mark the 120th celebration of “Labor Day” as a legal, national holiday. What is the history of the “Labor Day” holiday? It had a turbulent, … Continue reading

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More Iowa secret settlements identified; cost rises to $700K

A state audit released today identified 11 more secret settlements made by Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration, pushing the cost to taxpayers up to $700,000.

In total, 42 secret deals with former employees have now been identified since Branstad resumed office in January 2011. That’s nearly double the 24 settlements unveiled by the administration on March 24, following a Des Moines Register investigation that initially identified six questionable settlements.

And with the increased public disclosure, the known cost has grown, too.

SECRET SETTLEMENTS: Previous stories on the investigation

For months, it appeared the confidential settlements cost about $500,000, but that figure has reached at least $696,745, according to the most recent records.

Today’s audit did not uncover more evidence of so-called “hush money” — extra payments made to former employees in exchange for silence.


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Auditor’s report demonstrates need for long-term solution to mismanagement of state agencies

Statement from Senator Petersen, Oversight Committee chair, on the State Auditor’s report on ‘hush money’ and related issues “When the story broke earlier this year about former state employees being offered and paid hush money to keep quiet, few of … Continue reading

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Ernst Position on Renewable Fules and GOP web page

  *UPDATE: IowaGOP.org has suddenly become ‘temporarily unavailable’ just minutes after drawing criticism for including calls to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard in their official Party Platform under the section, IowaGOP.org/About.   The timing of the website coming down seems a … Continue reading

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Labor Almost Invisible on TV Talk Sunday chat shows skip worker representatives

8/28/14 As the Labor Day holiday approaches, ask yourself how often you see unions represented on corporate-owned television. On the highest-profile public affairs shows, the answer is basically never. According to a search of the Sunday morning talkshows for this … Continue reading

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Harkin Steak Fry

I held my first Steak Fry back in 1972.

A lot has changed since then, but the Steak Fry has always been about one thing:

Good old, down-home, grassroots politics.

This year, my good friends Bill and Hillary Clinton are joining Ruth and me as we celebrate my last Steak Fry.

We’d love it if you can be there too.

Let me and Ruth know you’ll be there with us – click here to learn how to get your tickets.

We’ve put this Steak Fry together 36 times now – and every year has been great. But I know the 37th and last Steak Fry is going to be the best yet.

I’ve been looking forward to this since our 36th Steak Fry wrapped up last year, and I’m so excited to see you later this month.

Let me know you’ll be there before tickets run out.

Thank you,


Tomharkin steak fry 2014

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Happy Contempt for Labor Day

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By Mike Konopacki Labor Day, like most of our national holidays, has lost its meaning and represents the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to be. A day to celebrate American workers is now mostly just another excuse for retailers … Continue reading

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Labor Day Events around Iowa

  This Labor Day, labor organizations across Iowa will be holding events to recognize the working women and men in Iowa. Along with the traditional Labor Day activities. these events will highlight workers who are fighting to raise wages for … Continue reading

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King hints at another shutdown showdown

Republicans in Congress got burned in opinion polls after the 2013 government shutdown. Some, however, including Iowa’s U.S. Rep. Steve King, are already getting out the matches for another round.

Congress must act before the end of September to either approve a budget or authorize continued spending at current levels to avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner has said he expects action on a short-term continuing resolution next month.

Some GOP leaders, however, including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio, have hinted in media reports of another budget showdown next month.

King, R-Kiron, said Wednesday “all bets are off” on a continuing resolution if President Obama follows through with reported plans to deal with immigration issues without Congress.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”


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Labor Activist Training – Quad City

Thursday August 28th On Thursday August 28th, the Quad City Federation of Labor will be hosting a training session from 5:30-7:00 pm at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 Hall (4600 46th Avenue, Rock Island). This training is intended to prepare Iowa and … Continue reading

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Labor Day –

On this holiday fought for and created by unions, too many American working families are struggling just to get by. No one who works for a living should have to struggle to support the basic needs of their family. Some … Continue reading

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In a Victory for Spring Hill Workers and Families, UAW and GM Announce Cadillac SRX As New Product for Spring Hill Manufacturing, $191 Million Investment in SGE Program

  Spring Hill, Tennessee (August 27, 2014) – Today, in a victory for Tennessee’s workers and families, UAW International Union and Local 1853 joined with General Motors executives to announce the Cadillac SRX as one of two future mid-size vehicles set … Continue reading

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Labor History

August 29 Seventy-five workers die when the lower St. Lawrence River’s Quebec Bridge collapses while under construction.  A flawed design was found to be the cause.  Thirteen more workers were killed nine years later when the reconstructed bridge’s central span … Continue reading

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Des Moines teachers charged for coffee pots in classrooms

Teachers and staff in the Des Moines school district must now pay an annual fee for any appliances they have in their classrooms such as a coffee maker or microwave.

District officials notified staff of the charge in an email Monday, saying the move will help offset the costs for energy used by the appliances. Annually, staff must now pay $30 for a small refrigerator, $20 for a coffee maker and $10 for a microwave.

“A lot of teachers who contacted me question whether removing a mini-fridge in a classroom is going to make a huge difference overall in energy savings for the district,” said Andrew Rasmussen, president of the Des Moines teacher’s union.

It costs $153.30 each year to run a mini-fridge; $32.86 a year for a microwave and $123.04 for a drip coffee pot, according to a district Energy Report Card dated February 2013. Mini-fridges consume the most energy per year at 2,190 kilowatts.


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Former Iowa State Senator Pleads Guilty to Concealing Federal Campaign Expenditures

U.S. Department of Justice press release, August 27: A former Iowa State Senator pleaded guilty today to concealing payments he received from a presidential campaign in exchange for switching his support and services from one candidate to another and to … Continue reading

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Judges tell legislators they were pressured to make pro-business rulings

August 27, 2014 By

Current and former judges who rule on contested claims over unemployment benefits for laid-off workers testified Tuesday before the Iowa Senate Oversight Committee. Joe Walsh, the former chief administrative law judge in the Iowa Workforce Development agency, was laid off by the department’s director, who then put herself in charge.

“Which means that you have a partisan political employee in direct management of administrative law judges,” Walsh said.


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Iowa Federation of Labor Convention Photos

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Ex-judge: I opposed pro-employer boss, was fired

A former chief judge for the state agency that hears unemployment cases said Tuesday that he was fired because he stood up to his boss, who he said asserted her bias toward employers over workers.

Joe Walsh oversaw 15 unemployment appeals judges from 2010 until his dismissal in 2013.

On Tuesday, he told the Senate Government Oversight Committee that Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert pushed him to develop tip sheets to help businesses avoid paying unemployment benefits and took other steps that signaled she was inserting her personal political beliefs into the job.

“She instructed me to gather data on the judges to determine which judges were more likely to rule in favor of employers,” he said.

Walsh said he was initially hired as a merit employee, which protects certain state workers from being fired for political reasons.


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Iowans need to make their voices heard in election

Here in Iowa, we pride ourselves on having a well-informed electorate and a strong commitment to civic participation — it’s something that remains a constant here year after year, election after election. It’s something we should be proud of, because your vote is your voice.

We are a month out from early voting here in Iowa, and in our state we are fortunate to have many different ways we can cast our vote. We can vote by mail, vote at our county auditor’s office, vote at a satellite voting location, or vote in-person on Election Day.

This election, like in previous elections, I’ll be voting early. Like most busy parents with schedules filled with meetings, swim and/or soccer practice, piano lessons and church activities, I find voting early to be the easiest and most convenient way to ensure my voice is heard on Election Day. Snow? No rush to get to the polls because I voted early. Dental emergency? Let’s run to the dentist, because I voted early.


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Labor History


2014.08.25history-mlk.marchAugust 28
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech march—is held in Washington, D.C., with 250,000 participating.  The AFL-CIO did not endorse the march, but several affiliated unions did – 1963
(Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington: Written for 5 to 8 year-olds, this is a very nice introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that watershed event in the fight for civil rights. It uses the March as a point of reference as it talks about segregation in America and the battle for equal rights.)

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