Iowa Unions Fighting Against 'Attacks' On Labor

Sep 2, 2019

Labor union representatives in western Iowa say organized labor has been under attack, but they are continuing to fight for working people.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2017 law that limited bargaining rights for some public employees. Scott Punteney, the president of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, said despite "attacks" and setbacks like this, Iowa’s unions are still strong and are still fighting.

“And organized labor will always be here and we’ll always continue to fight for issues important to us, issues that are important to all people who work for a living,” Punteney said. "We're not going to give up – as long as there's working people, there's always going to be a labor movement."

Punteney said his federation will be actively encouraging its members to participate in the 2020 Iowa Caucuses this February and to put their support behind candidates with strong policies for unions and workers. He said he has talked with many of the candidates about issues such as health care and wages. 

“Those are the issues I feel whenever a presidential campaign comes through, needs to be talking about, and talking about workers’ issues,” Punteney said.

The Western Iowa Labor Federation hosted an annual Labor Day picnic in Sioux City – a celebration for union members, non-union workers and people who care about the workforce in general.

Jose Bustos, a local campaign coordinator for the United Food and Commercial Workers, a labor union for food, manufacturing and other industries, said he feels organized labor is doing well in Iowa though more needs to be done to protect workers. Bustos said, for his union, negotiations to reach new contracts are sometimes a struggle.

“Some of those companies, big corporations, fight back, you know, really bad,” Bustos said. “Luckily [for] the UFCW in Iowa, we’re having good luck with our strategy we use to negotiate those contracts.”

Bustos said the strategy is all about unity and that when all workers are united, they share better contracts.