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Union leader says GOP out to kill organized labor in Iowa

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Republican legislators may be in store for more than they bargained for by trying to eviscerate public employee rights.

Storm Lake native Jesse Case, leader of Teamsters Local 238 in Cedar Rapids (the state’s largest union local with a presence in 83 counties) last week called for “protests and rolling strikes” against legislation that would emasculate collective bargaining.

“We’re going to take the fight to them, to their town, to their county, to their farm, to their business,” Case said in a prepared video posted to YouTube on Thursday. “We’re gonna have rolling strikes across the State of Iowa. We’re gonna have concerted activity in business across the State of Iowa. We’re gonna have protests at businesses across the State of Iowa, and we’re gonna shut down business in the State of Iowa if they shut down unions.

“We’re not going to let them burn down the House of Labor,” Case declared. “We’re not going down without a fight.”

The Teamsters object to a bill sponsored by Sen. Adrian Dickey, R-Packwood, and Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, that would require public employers to submit a list of their employees to the state when a contract is about to expire. If the employer doesn’t provide the employee list, the union would have to sue the employer in district court. Case said that means his union would have to sue up to 100 municipalities and school districts as their contracts come up.

Case noted the collective bargaining law passed a half century ago with a Democratic legislature and Republican governor. It worked. Seven years ago, Republicans required unions to recertify with member elections a year ahead of their contract expirations in an attempt to gut labor, Case noted. “It didn’t work,” he said. In those elections, 98% of members voted to recertify with their unions. Case said it produced an unintended result: It strengthened union resolve and bonds among members.

This latest attempt would end collective bargaining in Iowa, Case maintains. He will go all-out to inflict as much pain as possible on hostile legislators. He is innovative. He got involved with labor by putting union stickers on pork going out of the non-union Storm Lake IBP plant, which got him fired and set on a path of organizing. He should not be underestimated. Legislators might get a bullhorn in their ear for breakfast. He has been known to do that.

The Teamsters have been quietly organizing across the state, conducting surveys and focus groups to determine what issues are most important to working folks in rural areas. Case is operating deliberately on roughly a five-year timeline to turn Iowa’s politics back to issues that matter: wages, rural hospitals closing, deteriorating roads and weakening public education.

Now he is getting louder. He notes the Teamsters represent police, waste haulers, water plant employees and school bus drivers — not to mention those truck drivers. He can wreak a lot of havoc, and he isn’t prone to idle threats. Most dangerous, Case knows what people care about. When he calls for a strike he means it. He has friends.

Republicans are blundering in their overreach. They continue to fumble around with Area Education Agencies, which will cause no end to their headaches with special ed parents. They continue to harass libraries, which is a no-win in Iowa politics — there is no dispute in Alta that it shall have a comprehensive library despite the legislature. They continue to harass gay and transgender citizens, threaten private colleges like Buena Vista over phantom terror sympathies among students from places like Galva, and proscribe a full accounting of history in high school social studies class. These things are not necessarily popular.

Dickey and Schultz are picking an unnecessary fight at precisely the time organized labor is enjoying its highest public approval in 60 years.

They’re helping Case in his quixotic crusade to organize Iowa back into sanity. The Moms for Liberty got thrashed. Moms for special ed are inside the heads of suburban Republican legislators. Local library dames are putting the heat on their representatives. Republicans are not so in tune with Gov. Kim Reynolds or each other right now.

The call from the Teamsters for rolling strikes could set some tinder ablaze. These are generally White guys in trucks, which is supposed to be the GOP base. The Republicans are alienating them when they don’t need to.

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