Iowans Push To Make September “Union Appreciation Month”

The Polk County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday morning to designate the month of September as “Labor Union Appreciation Month.”

“Whereas, hard working men and women across the state of Iowa prove that our community is filled with the most creative, dynamic, and talented workers in the world,” part of the proclamation read. “During this Labor Union Appreciation Month we reaffirm that collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the American dream.”

Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, said his organization wanted to help coordinate an effort to designate the month in honor of labor workers to ensure unions got the recognition they deserved.

“I think sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle, the great work that labor unions have done and still do,” Sinovic said. “I think it’s really appropriate to recognize this over the course of the month, and one of the ways to do that is to get cities, counties and then states issuing proclamations and recognizing it as such.”

Union members have worked to reduce the gender and racial pay gaps significantly, Sinovic said, and fought for parental leave, paid sick leave and created child labor laws.

“There’s a benefit from the simple things we take for granted,” Sinovic said. “And it’s something that we talk about on one day, but I think it’s worth talking about for a month.”

Sinovic said the language the supervisors passed in the proclamation was similar to a proclamation Johnson County approves each year.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said the Johnson County Board of Supervisors has passed a labor-related proclamation for at least six years.

“Johnson County has 500-and-some employees and a number of them are members of two different unions with whom we work and six different bargaining units,” Sullivan said. “Those are the folks that make the county go, and so it’s really critical that we thank them for their work and point out the good working relationships that we have and celebrate it.

“I think the environment has been pretty tough for the labor union the last couple of years in Iowa, and I think my experience in Johnson County has been that by working together we provide the best possible service,” Sullivan said. “We are very pleased with the relationship we have and I don’t want to see anything change.”

Over the last several years, union membership has declined and workplace inequality has spiked, Sinovic said.

“In my opinion there is absolutely a correlation between the two,” Sinovic said. “It’s because there’s — as far as power structures go in our country — there’s only one type of organization whose sole purpose is to fight for the right of workers, and that’s labor unions.

“I think that’s a big reason why we’ve gotten out of whack in this country, where we see wages just stay stagnant and we see CEO pay and corporate profits skyrocketing,” he added. “We need workers to organize and speak out in their workplace for their rights and benefits and workplace safety. We need to balance that out and give families a seat at the table.”

Partnering organizations, elected officials and businesses in support of Labor Union Appreciation Month include:

AFSCME Area Local 3011
AFSCME Council 61
APWU Waterloo Local 451
Black Hawk Union Assembly
Central Iowa Neighbors
Citizens for a Healthy Iowa
Congresswoman Cindy Axne
GPS Impact
Greenwood Media Services
Hawkeye Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Hedberg & Boulton, P.C.
Indivisible Iowa
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
Iowa Citizen Action Network
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Iowa Main Street Alliance
Iowa Policy Project
Iowa Postal Workers Union
Iowa River Labor Coalition
Iowa Safe Schools
Iowa State Education Association
Iowa Voices
I Work & Play
Josh Mandelbaum, Des Moines City Council
Midvale Pinacotheca
North Iowa Nine Labor Assembly
One Iowa
One Voice Message & Media
Pinpoint Digital
Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa
Polk County Board of Supervisors
Progress Iowa
Rep. Marti Anderson
Rep. Karin Derry
Rep. Molly Donahue
Rep. Tracy Ehlert
Rep. Chris Hall
Rep. Chuck Isenhart
Rep. Jennifer Konfrst
Rep. Bob Kressig
Rep. Monica Kurth
Rep. Vicki Lensing
Rep. Mary Mascher
Rep. Heather Matson
Rep. Amy Nielsen
Rep. Todd Prichard
Rep. Art Staed
Rep. Sharon Steckman
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell
Rep. Mary Wolfe
Ben Rogers, Linn County Supervisor
Rush & Nicholson
Sen. Joe Bolkcom
Sen. Claire Celsi
Sen. Eric Giddens
Sen. Rob Hogg
Sen. Pam Jochum
Sen. Kevin Kinney
Sen. Janet Petersen
Sen. Amanda Ragan
Sen. Jackie Smith
Sen. Zach Wahls
Smith & McElwain
South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Rod Sullivan, Johnson County Supervisor
Tax March Iowa
Teamsters Local 238
Tri-City Building & Construction Trades Council
Stacey Walker, Linn County Supervisor
Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO
By Paige Godden
Posted 9/4/19

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