Labor Day again already? It seems we waited forever for summer to begin this year, and now it’s almost over.

As I look back on the last year, there are several issues that I feel are important to touch on. First and foremost, I would like to talk about worker safety. I know every year for Workers’ Memorial Day we discuss worker safety. Way too many people are still being injured on the job. If you drive around, you don’t have to be an OSHA inspector to pick out multiple safety hazards on jobsites in town. This is something we all need to take more seriously. Maybe if the federal and state governments aren’t going to make safety a priority, we should start talking more on a local level about things that can be done to make worker safety a higher priority.

Worker misclassification is another large problem in Iowa. Many contractors are hiring individuals as subcontractors instead of employees to get around paying Social Security, unemployment, and workers’ compensation to these individuals. The state of Iowa has laws in effect to limit this practice, but no money for enforcement of the existing laws. Is everyone working for a contractor now a subcontractor who is responsible for insurance? This practice is becoming more prevalent, and I believe it follows the tired routine of having laws and ordinances, but no enforcement, which means the contractors following the law are at a competitive disadvantage when bidding work.

Next, I would like to take a minute to talk about wages. Wages in the Dubuque area rank near the bottom for communities of like size in our region. I am tired of hearing that there are more available jobs than there are workers in the Dubuque area. I think it is great that there are a lot of jobs, however, most of the available jobs are either part time or have low pay and little if any benefits. I would love to see a statistic on underemployed workers in Dubuque. This is another area where I believe we have to do better. We all want the city to be the best at all kinds of different things, but many people don’t much care that we are near the bottom for wages.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom on Labor Day. There are a lot of good things going on in Dubuque. As I stated earlier, unemployment is low. Many of my out-of-town friends have visited Dubuque in the last year and comment how beautiful it is here. I agree, I actually think living here makes you take the beauty of Dubuque for granted.

I am sure that everyone is tired of all the presidential politics already, with so many candidates running. But don’t forget about the local elections. This fall, we will be electing school board and city council members. No matter whom you support, make sure you get out to vote. All of the local elections have a huge impact on our lives day to day.

This Labor Day, take a second and think about all the workers out there and the sacrifices they make to support their families. I know that when a storm takes out your electricity, it is inconvenient, but there are linemen and tree trimmers out there working in the storm to restore your power. When there is flooding or high winds, city and county employees are out there cleaning up the mess.

Tom Townsend is president of the Dubuque Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

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