Over 500 activists gathered at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines to show solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin and rally against legislation that would limit state workers’ bargaining rights.
“This is not an assault on public workers,” Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, told The Associated Press. “This is an assault on the middle class.”
Legislation introduced to the Iowa House would prevent public workers from negotiating health benefits with their employers and also decrease their pensions.
“There are people who think that you have all gathered here today just because of something that’s happening in Wisconsin,” Congressman Bruce Braley said at the protest. “But you know and I know that the real reason we’re here today is because the middle class and working women are under attack and it’s our job to stand up and set the record straight.”
Republican Rep. Lance Horbach, who heads the House Labor Committee, said the legislation only limits a modest portion of public workers bargaining rights and that “90 percent” still remains.
“I think if we remain civil and don’t throw the Republican talking points in people’s faces and don’t throw the union talking points in people’s faces we can work it out,” he added. “There’s not a word in that bill that’s written in stone.”
Some of the largest protests Madison, Wisconsin has seen in decades erupted last week after newly-elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed limiting public workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Similar protests appear to have spread across the United States.
Last week, over 5,000 rallied in Ohio in opposition to a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers.
On Monday, over a thousand Montanans gathered in front of the state Capitol of Helena to protest budgetary plans to cut health, educational, environmental and labor programs while pushing for corporate tax cuts.
Protests erupted in Indiana as well, where lawmakers are also pushing legislation to limit collective bargaining rights.
The collective bargaining power of unionized workers is a key bullwark for American laborers, who’ve often been forced to organize throughout US history to force management into offering better pay, health insurance, greater job security, vacation time or even maternity leave. Without collective bargaining, the power of unionized workers would be reduced to their last and most extreme tool in their set: the general strike.
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