Last week saw 10,000 union employees at John Deere — many of whom were potential voters in eastern Iowa — strike over failed negotiations in compensation and benefits, leading candidates for statewide races to quickly voice their support.
Within hours of United Auto Workers announcing its strike, Iowa Democratic candidates had almost all voiced ardent support for the employees on the picket lines.
“UAW workers are tough, and they work tirelessly to build the highest-quality products in the world,” former congresswoman and now a candidate for U.S. Senate Abby Finkenauer said in a press release. “When UAW workers asked to be treated with respect and to earn the decent wages they deserve after powering record profits at John Deere, executives should have listened.”
Finkenauer famously ran for her one term in Congress carrying a charred sweatshirt worn by her father, a retired union pipefitter. When she announced her bid for the U.S. Senate seat long held by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, she did so at UAW Local 94 in Dubuque.
Her Democratic primary opponent, western Iowa physician Dr. Glenn Hurst, was also quick to voice his support.
“UAW workers showed up as essential workers during the COVID pandemic, facing the uncertainty of these times to ensure others had access to basic needs,” he said in a release. “I stand with the UAW and hope for a swift and fair contract that provides a decent wage to support their families, protects their benefits, allows them to work under safe and fair rules on the job, and recognizes their contribution to John Deere’s success.”
Finkenauer later took a swipe at Grassley in another release, after the longtime senator was quoted as having not known UAW workers were on strike but acknowledging workers were “exercising their right.”
“After 47 years of D.C. cocktail parties, it’s clear Senator Grassley has turned his back on working families and completely lost touch with the issues that matter to people back home,” she said. “The UAW workers on strike are our neighbors and our family, not people to be ignored or looked down upon because elected officials like Senator Grassley are too cowardly to stand up for what’s right.”
The next day, Grassley addressed the issue on Twitter, relating his own experiences on strike.
“For many years, I was a factory worker and union member and did go on strike as a part of that experience,” he posted. “The Deere workers and their families now face a stressful situation. I hope good-faith bargaining can bring the dispute to swift conclusion for the good of all parties and our Iowa economy.”
Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha — candidate for Iowa’s First Congressional District — also weighed in.
“UAW members have been there for John Deere before and through the pandemic. Every. Single. Day,” she tweeted. “Reliability and quality work makes for great products and high sales during these tough times. It’s time for JD to share those profits.”
Locally, Iowa Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, joined the support.
“Thank you to UAW Local 94 for your persistent advocacy,” she posted on Facebook. “It is the workers on the front lines who keep Deere running day in and day out (who) deserve their share of the financial success through good wages, benefits, and a secure retirement. #UnionStrong”
During an interview Thursday, Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, also said she was keeping a close eye on the situation.
“I actually have a Republican constituent who is a Deere worker and has been keeping me in the loop,” she said. “I knew they were going to strike. She’s on the picket line today.”
Lundgren on redistricting
Lundgren had been unable to be reached by the Telegraph Herald for several days before or immediately after the Oct. 5 redistricting special session to vote on redistricting. In that session, Senate Republicans rejected the first maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, meaning they never made it to the House for Lundgren’s vote.
On Thursday, she shared what she thought of the maps and the process.
“It certainly would have been a change for me — I’d lose half of Dubuque County and go south to Sabula,” she said. “My first inclination was, ‘Well, I’m not representing my people down there.’ But in the end, I was lucky. I was not put up against anybody else. I was still the incumbent for that district. But the Senate (Republicans) made some valid points about district size and district shape. How do you split up counties and cities? It’ll be interesting.”
Lundgren said she was bothered by some accusations she has heard that the Republican majority intends to gerrymander the state in whatever map they do approve.
Kind endorses Pfaff
Retiring U.S. Rep. Ron Kind on Thursday endorsed his former staff member, state Sen. Brad Pfaff, in the race to replace him in the southwestern Wisconsin congressional district.
The endorsement came the day after another Democrat, Eau Claire businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, got in the race. Republican Derrick Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL who was narrowly defeated by Kind in 2020, is running again and has support from former President Donald Trump and Republican House leadership.
Kind, who has held the seat for more than 24 years, cited Pfaff’s roots in the district and said he would be “a champion for farmers, small businesses, workers and western Wisconsin families.”
9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 18 — U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, will hold a public town hall at Jackson County Fairgrounds’ Boyer Hall, 1212 E. Quarry St., Maquoketa, Iowa. The event is open to the public and “questions are not screened or filtered,” stated a press release.