Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 26, 2016

Sullivan’s Salvos     8/30/16

In this edition:

*Labor Day
*Labor Day Picnic
*Labor and Candidates
*Letter to the Register
*Branstad and Jobs
*Did You Know?

*Labor Day
Happy Labor Day next Monday! I love Labor Day. Every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day we set aside time to recall the folks whose service has given us our freedom. I have long felt we need to treat Labor Day in a similar fashion.

Please take a moment this Labor Day to remember the people who fought (and often died) to give us child labor laws, 40 hour weeks, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, employment nondiscrimination, pensions, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more.

Do not be fooled! Benevolent corporations did not GIVE these benefits to workers! They were earned by workers who sacrificed! It is a shame that so many average Joes have chosen to support our corporate masters versus supporting those whose efforts really benefit the masses.

Unions continue to provide the best protections working people can have. I feel as though I have accomplished some good things as a member of the Board of Supervisors. One of the accomplishments of which I am most proud is starting an employee appreciation lunch every year the week of Labor Day. Johnson County employees deserve much more, but this is one extra opportunity to say thank you.

Trust me – the average person has nothing to fear from unions. We all benefit when folks have safe and healthy workplaces. We all benefit when workers get adequate rest. We all benefit when workers receive good training. We all benefit when folks earn a living wage and have health insurance. Unions help improve the quality of life for all of us.

One example of a way in which unions benefit everyone: much is made of the automobile industry expanding into the southern US. While these are not union plants, workers still have good wages and benefits. Some see this as an indictment of unions. It is precisely the opposite.

Do not think for a minute that these companies pay $22 per hour because they WANT to. They would be much happier to pay $4 per hour. And, when China’s workforce improves in quality to the point that they can do automotive work, the companies will move there.

Understand – large corporations exist for one reason, and that is to earn a profit. If the laws allowed slavery, some companies would use it. Because it is cheaper.

So why do they pay $22 in the southern US? Because of the threat of the United Auto Workers (UAW). If the wages or benefits ever sink too low, UAW could unionize those workers. The car companies don’t want that, so they pay the lowest possible acceptable wage.

See? The UAW does not represent the workers at those plants. But they have driven up the wages and benefits for the workers there all the same.

I am proud to be a member of Local 716 of the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the Iowa City Federation of Labor. Happy Labor Day!

*Labor Day Picnic
The Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, will host its annual Labor Day picnic on Monday, September 5, starting at noon at Upper City Park, shelter 2. Meat, veggie options and beverages provided. Please bring a dish to share. Political speeches and a good time guaranteed. Free to all Friends of Labor.

*Labor and Candidates
Candidates for elected office typically court labor unions for support. This makes sense; Labor is a large, well-organized group of regular voters.

So how does one earn the support of Organized Labor? Well, there are many labor-specific issues, such as the right to bargain collectively, Fair Share, prevailing wage, card check, choice of doctor, minimum wage increases, paid sick leave, overtime laws, and more. Strong support for these issues is critical in attracting the support of Organized Labor.

Votes on issues matter; they matter A LOT. But there is a critical, often-overlooked matter when it comes to the support of Organized Labor – how do you treat employees? Do employees feel as though they are treated with dignity and respect? Or are they walking on eggshells, just waiting for the next explosion?

Yes, the way you vote on the issues is important. But it is equally important that you treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

*Letter to the Register
I recently wrote the following email to Des Moines Register Business Reporter Kevin Hardy. Yes, I was unhappy…

Look, I get it. You write for the business section. It is much more important to note which corporate titan has a birthday than to write about the actual struggles of the people of Polk County. The business titans buy ads; poor people don't.

But here are two ideas:

1. Talk to people who actually work for less than $10/hour. Learn what their lives are like, and share it with your readers.

2. Rather than all the fear mongering you print, get in your car, drive two hours east, and take a look at Johnson County. The minimum wage here is already $9.15, and the sky has not fallen.

Your journalistic integrity is at stake. We have heard the concerns... They are the same concerns we have heard since 1938. People are hurting, and they need more income. Corporations refuse to do the right things voluntarily, so government is forced to intervene.

*Branstad and Jobs
         Governor Branstad decided he would create some much-needed jobs in Iowa. Then he went about doing it all wrong.

         Giant foreign company Orascom was given oodles of public money to come in from Egypt and build a fertilizer plant in Lee County.

         Orascom is the beneficiary of over $500,000,000 in tax incentives and direct payments, in exchange for creating 165 jobs. That works out to $3.3 MILLION per job! And those are 2014 estimates; the cost per job has undoubtedly risen since then.

         Let’s look at other ways that money could be spent. The Courts are short scores of positions. DNR is short at least 25 professional positions, as is the DOT, DIA, DHS, and other State Agencies. These are positions that inspect nursing homes, group homes, CAFOs, manure spills, etc. They design and permit roads and bridges. They help citizens navigate Medicaid Managed Care. They deliver legal justice. These are the people who provide important governmental services to the people of Iowa.

         These are professional jobs, so let’s figure in a very good average salary ($75k) and excellent average benefits ($25k). The annual cost of one of our employees is $100k.

         Now let’s employ them for ten years. That is a million bucks each. For the sake of argument, let’s use the $500 million figure we heard earlier.

         The State of Iowa could employ 500 more people – doing critical jobs that Iowans need done – at a really good salary for ten years each. All for the same cost as the Orascom scam!

         This is easy math, folks. My proposal makes more sense. But it will not register with our Governor. He is ideologically opposed to job creation in the public sector, no matter how badly we need it. He’d rather throw money away to a foreign company. Shameful.

*DID YOU KNOW?  I am a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 716.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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