Thank you Mister Speaker.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, I would like to welcome you to the 2015 Session of the 87th General Assembly. Over the past couple of days we have heard from the Speaker, the Majority Leader and the Governor on their vision and what they feel our priorities should be for the upcoming session.
Unfortunately, nowhere in their vision was there a mention of the 300,000 Iowans currently living in poverty while working at minimum wage.
Nor does it include any of the 260,000 workers who have had over $600 million in wages stolen each year.
And if you are one of the 1 in 6 children who live in poverty in this great state – good luck; you appear to be on your own.
Because from what I have heard so far the majority party seems to have turned its back on the middle class. For the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who can’t find employment at a living wage, there is no vision – only the begrudging fact that the majority part of this body will continue to turn its back on the middle class of Iowa in lieu of handing out favors to the corporate fat cats and campaign contributors.
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a way of providing dignity to one’s family and self. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and living wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.
From 1978 to 2011, CEO compensation increased more than 725 percent, and yet over that same period worker compensation has risen a painfully slow 5.7 percent.
In 1978, CEOs took home 26.5 times more than the average worker. They now make roughly 206 times more than workers.
Now I don’t begrudge CEO’s making a lot of $ – just not off backs of their workers.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, something must be done to restore the middle class here in Iowa. And that something must start this session. We have talked about coming together in agreement on the issues. So let us agree that if a person works for 40 hours a week and plays by the rules they should not have to live in poverty. Let us agree that if that person works hard to put food on their family’s table they should not be subject to having their wages stolen by unscrupulous employees. And we need to agree that steps need to be taken to make it easier – not harder – for a person to make a living wage in the state of Iowa.
We as a legislative body need to raise the minimum wage to 10.10 an hour so that 300,000 Iowans who work hard do not have to work hard in poverty. We need to enact Wage theft legislation so that 260,000 Iowans who work hard do not have to risk losing 600 million dollars in wages every year. We need to pass prevailing wage legislation and expand bargaining rights so that Iowans who work hard can work hard for a living wage. We need to pass choice of doctor in work comp situations so that Iowans who work hard and get injured on the job can be confident that their doctor will look out for their well-being not just the company’s. And we need to bring dignity back to all working men and women of Iowa.
It’s time that the policies and practices of this government serve the needs of today’s working families and not of corporate campaign contributors.
It is time to renew the contract that organized labor set up and that governed work for so many years—that hard work, loyalty, and good performance will be rewarded with fair and increasing wages, pride in one’s work, and job security.
It is time to restore dignity back to the state of Iowa.
So celebrate for the rest of the week. Enjoy the inauguration festivities. For next week it’s time to get to work. So expect to hear more from us about the minimum wage. About wage theft. About education. About Mental Health Redesign. About reducing poverty and increasing wages in this state. And about welcoming the middle class back to the state of Iowa.
And also expect an invitation. An invitation to work with us to bring back the middle class to the state of Iowa. We look forward to working with you.