President Donald Trump traveled to Iowa yesterday to tout his administration’s record on the economy, immigration, and rural America issues. Just before his visit, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann boasted about Trump’s “ground-breaking policies that have brought 5.4 million new jobs, lower taxes and fair trade deals for American farmers and manufacturers.”
Union workers in Iowa, however, are wondering just where that robust economy has been in the state.
“I’ve got several questions on that statement,” said Jim Chance, president of the UAW Local 893 in Marshalltown. “Where are all those jobs at? And what are those jobs?”
Tim Frickson, president of the UAW Local 838 in Waterloo, said those new jobs certainly never came to the Cedar Valley area.
“If they’re creating all these jobs and creating so much work, we haven’t noticed it,” Frickson said.
Jeff Hartford, president of the Local Steelworkers 105, said things seem to be “stagnant at best,” adding, “I don’t see this great uplifting of jobs and industry work.”
Ryan Drew, the president of the Henry County Labor Council and Southeast Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council, said the operating engineers are doing fine because their bread and butter is in infrastructure, and the construction of the I-74 bridge in the Quad Cities has kept them going. But, he said, the funding for that has nothing to do with Trump.
“I’m trying to think about the investment and what he’s talking about locally — and in Eastern Iowa how that would apply or an example of where that’s been used — and I honestly don’t know that I could think of any,” Drew said.
Trump visited the state Tuesday to attend a fundraising event in West Des Moines and deliver a speech about the implementation of a year-round E15 fuel policy in Council Bluffs.
According to the Des Moines Register, Trump said at the West Des Moines stop, “This is truly an extraordinary time for our nation. America is thriving, optimism is booming, our people are prospering and our country is winning again.”
A few weeks ago in Ohio, the president recently touted his own record on saving manufacturing jobs.
“We’re bringing it back in record numbers. Nobody can believe it,” Trump said, according to NPR.
Chance said he hasn’t noticed anything getting “a lot better or worse.”
“A year ago, we went through a tragedy here with a tornado that tore up our manufacturing places,” Chance said. “We’ve been working through that. But I can’t see anything getting substantially better at all in the last two years.”
Frickson said they haven’t seen much growth in Waterloo.
“We’ve noticed a little bit of a slow-down, I guess you would call it,” he said. “We’re not maintaining business. We’re not real busy. I can’t release numbers, but we haven’t noticed — if they’re creating all these jobs and creating so much work, we haven’t noticed it.”
If anything, Hartford said he’s seen more jobs lost than gained in the last two years. He said about 40 people were recently laid off from a casting facility in Bettendorf — although he said that had nothing to do with the tariffs Trump has imposed on China.
Even though the steelworkers supported Section 232 and imposing tariffs on China because of the country’s illegal subsidizing and dumping of steel and aluminum, Hartford still called Trump’s policies “disastrous.”
“We never intended for Canada or Mexico to get caught up in that,” Hartford said. “The current administration felt it was right to put tariffs on all that.”
Chance said the tariffs are forcing uncertainty and instability into the market, and are impacting everything from agriculture production to steel prices to 401Ks.
“You wonder what Trump is going to do next,” Chance said. “Just like with how it affects the stock market, when he’s putting out the threats to raise tariffs by a certain amount and by a certain day if they don’t have a decision or make an agreement — I know several people in the fourth quarter of last year who took a big hit on the market value of their 401K because of the uncertainty of what is going on with it.”
Overall, Chance said he’s just not sure Trump is “accomplishing anything. I really don’t know that he is.”
If Frickson could tell Trump one thing, it’d be to make sure manufacturers are getting a fair deal when it comes to trade.
“We don’t want to put a stranglehold on what we’re putting out to other countries. We want to make sure they are still viable customers to buy our products,” Frickson said. “Some of the tariffs can be good, but they can’t be too severe or steep all at one time.”
Meanwhile, Hartford said he’d ask Trump raise the minimum wage.
“That would push everyone else’s wages up,” Hartford said. “This whole thing about how there are few jobs open and unemployment is down, it’s because everyone is working two jobs to stay afloat.”
by Paige Godden