Be Careful What You Ask For

One of the most baffling aspects of what has been Iowa’s turning into a Republican dominated state is that working people have been voting for Republicans. The thought of working people voting for a Republican seems at counter purpose to what working people would want representative government help them to achieve.

Yet here is Iowa on the cusp of experimenting with policies that have over the course of the last decade or so turned Iowa into a paradise for the rich and a hard place to survive for the working class. This year’s legislature is in the process of slapping workers around a bit more.

Thursday I opened my online edition of the Iowa Capital Dispatch and see one of the top stories of the day is that Iowa’s Republican dominated House and Senate have cut unemployment insurance benefits from from 26 weeks to 16 weeks. 

Iowa workers would have 10 fewer weeks of unemployment benefits under a bill passed Wednesday by the Iowa House and Senate.

House File 2355 is an amended version of a proposal by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It shortens the maximum amount of unemployment to 16 weeks, down from 26 weeks under current law. The bill also redefines a suitable job, requiring unemployed workers to accept lower-paid offers earlier in their job search.

The Senate’s version of the bill also introduces a one-week waiting period before Iowans begin receiving unemployment benefits. Rep. Michael Bousselot said he removed that provision from the House’s bill after discussion with union workers, who opposed the waiting period.

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Democrats in both chambers opposed the bill, offering a list of amendments to broadly change the state’s protections for workers: restoring collective bargaining rights, increasing access to affordable housing, making it easier for people to find a job despite a criminal record, and raising the minimum wage.

All Democratic amendments failed on the House and Senate floor. Members of the minority party spoke for several hours, emphasizing that the majority of people on unemployment severely need the benefits.

Workers have voted more and more for Republicans based on so-called “cultural” issues. Republicans have responded by making it harder to unionize, keeping wages low and now by cutting lifelines like unemployment insurance. 

Our corporate puppet governor – “Corporate” Kim Reynolds – claims that workers are not taking available jobs because unemployment is so extravagant. Nothing could be farther from the truth and she knows it. Her proclaimed ‘worker shortage’ in Iowa is not due to workers idling about because unemployment benefits are so lavish. Not by a long shot.

There are problems in Iowa that the legislature refuses to address that could lure workers to Iowa. We could start by raising minimum wage. Iowa is currently among the lowest in the country.  Add lack of benefits into that low wage calculation. That will never attract workers. 

Then there is the problem of inadequate child care. For many families the cost of child care takes more that what they can make at a low wage job. Why even work if it is a money losing proposition. 

Our governor can’t seem to understand why young people are leaving Iowa for better opportunities and then they do stuff like this.

And let us hope that workers are finally starting to realize that when you vote for Republicans because of their claims on the so-called cultural issues, that behind those claims is a legislative agenda that hurts workers and hands huge benefits to the wealthy and connected in our state.

Little Village Mag has some thoughts from democrats on this bill:

Democrat Rep. Chris Hall of Sioux City immediately pushed back against those claims.

“In my opinion, that is the most polite and soft way that you can tell the public they’re about to get screwed,” Hall said. “Is the solvency of the unemployment trust fund at risk? No. And nobody’s buying the governor’s rationale that garbage policy like this will have a positive economic impact. It’s not going to address the workforce shortage.”

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Other Democrats pushing back against the bill were equally as blunt as Hall.

“This bill that we have before us today is a middle finger to hardworking Iowans,” Rep. Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids said during the debate.

“Why are we punishing people who are fired through no fault of their own and looking for work?” House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights asked. “By cutting them off and thinking that will get them back to work?”

“This is short-sighted, this is mean, and this is wrong.”  

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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