Opinion | Support workers and labor unions

Republicans are wrong for not supporting labor unions.


Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / U

Members of the United Auto Workers strike outside of the John Deere Engine Works plant on Ridgeway Avenue in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. About 10,000 UAW workers have gone on strike against John Deere since Thursday at plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. 20211015 Uawstrike

Sophie Stover, Opinions Contributor

Even during a nationwide labor movement, Republicans consistently prove that the party is anti-union and anti-workers’ rights.

Over 10,000 workers at John Deere went on strike for a fair contract, and membership in the United Auto Workers Union gives employees the negotiating power to do so. This instance is yet another example of why strong labor unions benefit workers by providing collective bargaining power.

Supporting labor unions is inherently pro-worker, yet there is a strong political divide on the topic. Gallup data from 2020 shows 45 percent of Republican voters and 83 percent of Democrats said they supported labor unions. This gap in support is consistent among elected officials.

Republican elected officials support “right to work” laws, claiming that these provisions protect workers from being forced to join a union. The National Labor Relations Act already prevents employees from being required to join a union. In reality, “right to work” laws allow non-union members to reap union benefits without paying any union dues, effectively diminishing union strength.

Twenty-eight states have “right to work” laws, most of which have majority Republican state legislatures. On the federal level, Senate Republicans introduced National Right-to-Work Act legislation in 2019, and both Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, were co-sponsors. Under the guise of preventing “forced unionization,” Republicans actively support policies that undermine the power of labor unions.

In Iowa, politicians responded to the strike at John Deere.

“Hopefully they’ll work through the process and get the employees back to work sooner rather than later,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at the Scott County Republicans Reagan Dinner.

Grassley was unaware of the strike when a journalist probed him on the topic.

“Well, obviously they’re exercising their right to do that, of collective bargaining. And that’s a decision those workers made. And under the laws, we have to respect it,” Grassley said.

It’s obvious that labor unions are not important to Grassley, after he failed to stay updated on the largest labor union strike in the state’s recent years.

Iowa Republicans made it clear that they feel indifferent toward the plights of the John Deere employees and do not actively support labor union activity. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats proved that they stand with the UAW workers on strike.

Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, Coralville, and Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, Windsor Heights, all made statements in strong support of employees on strike and the UAW union. Additionally, all three elected officials joined union laborers on the picket lines.

Iowa Democrats support labor unions, and this position is consistent across the entire party. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protect the Right to Organize Act of 2021, with support from all Democrats except for one. Only five Republicans supported the bill.

The bill, if enacted into law, would “expand various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.” Unsurprisingly, the bill has 213 cosponsors, only three of which are Republicans. Axne is the lone member of the Iowa delegation to support it.

Between the current labor union movement and the Great Resignation, workers in the U.S are increasingly unhappy and willing to demand better treatment. Labor union employees need political support in expanding their rights, an initiative that Democrats strongly support and Republicans quietly disregard.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.