Far too many workers and their families don’t have sufficient savings socked away for an emergency, like a losing a job. At the same time, the pandemic has shown how incredibly dependent we are on many of these same workers to make essential parts of our economy and our day-to-day lives function.
Essential workers are everywhere and need far more support and respect. Better wages, better benefits and union representation would go a long way to help.
This Labor Day, I will be reflecting on the contributions and sacrifices they make for all of us.
As we approach Labor Day 2020, this is a good time to recognize the hard work of so many Iowans.
During a difficult year, Iowans have been asked to do more and they have responded by:
- Pouring into communities to help those hit by storms and flooding
- Working overtime—often in risky situations—at front-line jobs during the pandemic
- Using innovative solutions to continue providing goods and services to their fellow citizens
- Adjusting how and where they work to limit potentially dangerous circumstances
This Labor Day, let’s look around and thank those who are working hard in what often feels like thankless times. I especially want to salute and thank all who have worked during the pandemic and the derecho to help their neighbors, community and state get through the upheaval—the nurses, teachers, utility workers, factory laborers, first responders and other front-line workers.
Under Republican control of state government since 2017, many Iowa workers have faced hard times. Laws that protected them have been watered down or eliminated, making it harder for them to get ahead. This includes overturning laws that brought Iowans better wages, safer working conditions and a stronger economy, and replacing them with policies and tax benefits that favor big businesses and special interests.
Even before the hardships of 2020, Iowa wages had stagnated; worker benefits had been cut; and income inequality was growing. Many families have a much harder time making ends meet than they did a few years ago.
For example, a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that on average Iowans today must earn $15.46 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the state’s fair market rent rate. That’s more than double Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The difference is even bigger in the Iowa City metro, where workers must earn $19.44 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the local fair market rent rate.
Senate Democrats continue to offer solutions. It’s time to put Iowa workers first by restoring and protecting worker rights, expanding job training and apprenticeship programs, providing paid sick and family medical leave, paying living wages, ensuring equal pay for equal work, and investing in child care.
The best “thank you” we can give hard-working Iowans is real opportunities to get ahead.
Iowa is officially the worst place in the country—and one of the worst places in the world—for spread of the coronavirus.
Six months into the pandemic, when many of us thought we might be in the clear, Iowa is in the thick of it with record-high infection rates and mounting deaths.
In response, the Governor on August 27 closed bars in six counties, including Johnson. This is another half-hearted move that is preventing Iowa from getting the coronavirus under control.
Governor Reynolds opened the state too fast, failed to follow the advice of public health experts, and continues to tie the hands of local leaders. Because of unreliable and inconsistent data from the state, we’re in a seemingly endless cycle that is hindering efforts to safely and sustainably open our economy and schools.
To fill the void, organizations are stepping in to share the information they are collecting.
For example, the Iowa State Education Association, in partnership with Iowa Covid-19 Tracker, has released a statewide tracking system for Iowa’s K-12 schools. Parents, teachers and school administrators can report COVID-19 cases, and families and community members can track what’s happening. To report information or see where cases have been confirmed, go to iowacovid19tracker.org/covid-19-in-our-schools.
The Iowa Board of Medicine has also become more vocal in advocating for stronger measures to prevent spread of the coronavirus. In line with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they’re pushing for masks in public areas and all situations where it’s difficult to maintain distance.
Let’s all do our part:
- Wear a mask in public
- Keep your distance from others
- Wash your hands frequently
- Stay home when sick
New regulations and relief for bars
The Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) has published FAQs to answer questions about bar closures in six counties (Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story) under the Governor’s August 27 proclamation. The order is in effect through September 20.
To file a COVID-related complaint about a bar or restaurant, go to stateofiowa.seamlessdocs.com/f/abd_complaint.
For more information, visit the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-281-7400.
Through federal CARES Act funding, grants are available to impacted businesses. Applications will be accepted September 10-24 for one-time $10,000 grants to assist with short-term cash flow. Eligible businesses must be in good standing with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and the Iowa Department of Revenue.
For complete details and to apply, go to iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/business-disruption.
Beware of price-gouging
All counties impacted by the derecho disaster declaration should beware of and report price-gouging. State law forbids excessive prices for goods or services needed by victims of disasters. If you suspect price gouging in a disaster-proclaimed Iowa community, submit a complaint at iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-consumers/file-a-consumer-complaint. For more information, review the Price-Gouging Fact Sheet.
Replace derecho damaged trees
The State Forest Nursery is working with Iowans to select the proper trees to replant in areas hit by the derecho.
The Nursery grows many species of native Iowa tree and shrub seedlings that can provide food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators, reduced soil erosion, lower heating and cooling costs, cleaner water and air, less noise pollution and a more beautiful landscape.
District Foresters can help landowners choose the best trees and shrubs for their area. Find their contact information at iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Forestry/Forestry-Landowner-Assistance.
Place an order at nursery.iowadnr.gov. There you will find current nursery inventory, descriptions of each plant and their ideal conditions. Orders are available for delivery or pickup in November for fall planting, or April-May for spring planting.
News You Can Use
Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over
The Labor Day holiday weekend is one of the deadliest times of the year for drunk-driving fatalities. Last year in Iowa, half of the fatalities over the three-day Labor Day weekend involved a drunk driver. To help keep people safe on the roads, extra law enforcement will be out in support of the 2020 Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. Through September 7, officers will be on the lookout for impaired drivers and other serious traffic violations.
DOT appointments to be permanent
The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided to make its appointment-only system (instituted when the pandemic broke out) permanent.
The system has proven to be more efficient because staff know ahead of time who to expect and what they’ll be visiting about. The new system has also given customers predictability. They know when to arrive, and can often get in and out quickly, instead of facing a potentially long wait in a crowded room.
To make an appointment for DOT driving, license and other motor vehicle services, go to iowadot.gov. You’ll receive an email confirmation with a QR code that you can scan upon arrival to check in for your appointment.
REAL ID deadline extended
REAL ID—a federal act focused on anti-terrorism and fraud protection—was set to take effect October 1, 2020. Due to COVID-19, the REAL ID deadline has been extended to October 1, 2021.
At that time, everyone 18 and older will need a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or another acceptable form of ID to fly commercially or to access certain federally controlled facilities. Get complete details at tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification.
REAL IDs are not issued online. Iowans must go to a DOT service center to obtain the license. Several forms of identification are required to complete the process. Find them at iowadot.gov/mvd/realid/real-id-home.
Iowans will only have to go through this process one time, and the REAL ID mark will remain on your card each time you renew.
Biz & Orgs: apply for funding to train workers
Through September 16, employers, employer consortiums, community organizations and nonprofits may apply for Employer Innovation Fund grants to provide training, books, tools and wraparound support to Iowans training for high-demand careers. The grant program will focus on those whose jobs have been affected or eliminated because of the pandemic. Complete details are at content.govdelivery.com/accounts/IACIO/bulletins/29c4506.
Are you safe at work?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, working Iowans are looking for ways to negotiate for strong health and safety protections. To help, the AFL-CIO is launching a web tool to raise awareness about safe workplaces. The Am I Safe At Work website will help workers identify COVID-19 risks, provide tools to work toward better safety protections, guide workers in negotiating for safer conditions, and prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Nominations open for Job Honor Awards
Through September 30, Iowans can make nominations for the Seventh Annual Iowa Job Honor Awards, which recognize individuals who overcome significant barriers to employment to build a better life, and the employers who hire them.
The Iowa Job Honor Awards are focused on working-age adults who have struggled to participate in the workforce due to a criminal record, disability, drug and alcohol addiction, immigration challenges, homelessness, illiteracy, poverty and more.
Complete details are at jobhonor.org.
Iowans can access free professional courses
Iowa Workforce Development has partnered with Coursera to offer free online learning opportunities to Iowans during the pandemic. More than 4,300 online classes and certificate programs—such as entrepreneurship, information technology and advanced manufacturing training—are available at no cost if Iowans register and enroll by September 20, and complete their courses by December 31.
Get complete details at iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/iowans-can-access-free-professional-courses-online-through-coursera.