Incoming Iowa Rep. Jeff Cooling (D-Cedar Rapids), a newly elected legislator who begins his service today, said he’s most looking forward to bringing his common sense, real-world perspective on labor and workers’ issues to the Iowa Legislature, and to learning new things.
“Definitely being on the Labor Committee is a real big honor for me,” he said. “Being a third-generation union member in Cedar Rapids and local union president, and I’ve been union electrician for about 15 years now.”
Cooling went straight into his electrician apprenticeship after graduating from high school, and he’s been involved in unions and the labor movement since then.
Cooling will have to balance his job as an electrician and his duties as president of IBEW 405 while the legislature is in session, but he said he’s excited to bring his constituents’ issues to the halls of the Capitol and to be a voice for workers and organized labor generally.
That was part of the reason why he ran for the District 77 seat, which covers most of the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids, in the first place.
“It’s a really good seat. It’s been a labor union member seat for a long, long time,” Cooling said. “I felt like that was important to have that continue. And then, you know, I kind of have a unique situation of being very involved within the local and state labor movement and just being a very regular working-class person.”
He said it’s important that voice was being heard, especially with the changes to unemployment benefits, organizing and workers’ compensation that Republicans have made in recent years.
In addition to labor issues, Cooling said he’s concerned about public schools and the cost of child care, which he’s said was his family’s biggest expense until his son started school.
As a Democrat, Cooling will be in the minority so he said most of his work will have to work off of what Republicans are pursuing. His goals will include bringing amendments and speaking to his Republican colleagues about potential consequences.
“I live it. I work in these conditions,” he said. “You know, the cuts they’ve done to unemployment will affect me and my coworkers directly. The cuts they’ve done to worker’s compensation could affect me and my coworkers directly.”
“I don’t think they all understand the ramifications that it has on real families that they represent,” he continued.
At A Glance:
Name: Jeff Cooling
Position: Iowa Representative for District 77
Committee Assignments: Labor (ranking member), state government, local government, transportation
Residence: Cedar Rapids
Education: Perry High School, union apprenticeship
Experience: IBEW 405 President, none in state government
Family: Wife, son and daughter
Interests: golfing, fishing, home improvement
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