Workers all over Iowa need to know that there are multiple bills working their way through the Iowa Legislature right now proposing to slash unemployment benefits by 10-14 weeks, force Iowans to take jobs with reduced wages outside their chosen fields and wait additional weeks for benefits.
In her condition of the state, Gov. Reynolds implied that Iowans are lazy and that these benefits are a hammock for folks who don’t want to work. She also erroneously said that these are taxpayer dollars.
Surely she knows that’s not true.
The unemployment system is not funded by taxpayer dollars. It is an insurance system you pay into while you’re working. It is an earned benefit that you can only get if you work. It doesn’t even come close to replacing your full income, so the idea that any worker would want to lay back in that “hammock” is absurd and insulting.
I am a working plumber and the President of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, representing approximately 10,000 workers in 37 counties in Western Iowa. I’ve been a United Association plumber since 2006, and layoffs are just part of the trade.
As a superintendent, I have laid off more than 100 plumbers in the last few years. Personally, I was most recently laid off in 2011. During that layoff, unemployment insurance was essential to paying my bills, supporting my family, and keeping my home. It was essential to keeping me in my community until work resumed, instead of having to leave the state looking for work elsewhere.
Construction and repairs can halt for a lot of reasons that are no fault of the worker—here in Iowa, that even includes the weather. It is essential that trained, skilled workers have the ability to bridge those gaps and stay in their chosen fields rather than being forced into other lower-wage work. If we allow this attack on workers, as a state, then those workers will no longer be there when construction resumes.
As a union tradesman, I can get work anywhere, but I want to be here—my family is here, my house is here, and Iowa is my home. We are already struggling with a worker shortage. National unemployment is low. These bills will make our worker shortage exponentially worse by driving workers out of Iowa and to states where benefits support working families when they need them.
All three bills proposing drastic cuts to unemployment have now passed out of subcommittees and into the full House and Senate. Now is the time to contact your state legislators and tell them to vote NO on cutting unemployment. These bills are bad for Iowa workers.
by Jeff Shudak
President, Western Iowa Labor Federation
Council Bluffs, Iowa