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March 12th, 2009

Culver and the Labor Unions – An Interesting Pattern Emerges

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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A year ago, it was well reported that Chet Culver and the labor unions were at odds with each other. The major dust up back then occurred when Culver vetoed one of the labor unions’ top legislative priorities: open-scope bargaining.

Since then, it seems as if Governor Culver and the labor unions have made up.

The following is a list of labor groups that contributed to Culver in 2008.

Great Plains Laborers District Council – $70,000.00
Iowa State UAW – $47,500.00
AFSCME – $25,000.00
United Food and Commercial Workers – $25,000.00
Operating Engineers Local #234 – $25,000.00
Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters – $12,500.00
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union #33 – $5,000.00
IBEW Local 347 PAC Fund – $5,000.00
Iowans for a Skilled Workforce – $4,400.00
International Association of Fire Fighters – $4,000.00
Operating Engineers Local #234 – $2,500.00
Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council – $1,000.00
United Transportation Union – $1,000.00

The $227,900.00 that the labor unions donated to Culver makes up almost 22% of the total dollars his campaign committee took in for 2008. So, while the unions have apologized for publicly criticizing Governor Culver last year by donating big bucks, what has Culver done to thank the unions for their support?

Before the prevailing wage debacle, nobody knew where Culver stood on the legislation. It wasn’t until Speaker or the House, Pat Murphy, decided to keep the voting machine open all weekend after the House failed to find the required 51 votes to pass the legislation that Culver publically came out in support of the measure. Culver even said he would go out and find the final vote needed to pass the legislation.

Now, some three weeks later, another labor bill looks like it is destined for defeat. While the bill passed in the House Labor Committee, I’m told they passed a “strike after” amendment, which made the legislation even worse. The bill is now so radical, that even more House Democrats and a few Democrat Senators have backed away from supporting the bill.

So what does Culver do? He comes out in full support of the bill and says that he will pressure lawmakers to approve a measure letting workers choose their own doctors when they’re injured on the job.

It sure appears to me that Governor Culver waits until these labor bills are pretty much dead before he comes out publicly in support of them. I wonder if that’s what the labor unions thought they were getting when they sent a quarter-of-a-million dollars his way in an effort to kiss and make up. I doubt it.

Culver is playing a dangerous game. He tells the union folks he is with them on the issues, yet does very little to help get these bills passed. This has helped fill his campaign coffers, but at the end of the day, his rift with big labor could be worse than anyone could ever imagine. The other problem Culver has created is that, by coming out publically and telling people he will aggressively lobby legislators to pass these labor bills, he is setting himself up for defeats he shouldn’t have to suffer.

When you look at Culver’s poor job approval numbers and combine it with the dangerous game he is playing with the labor unions, his re-election campaign could prove to be very difficult. Already less than 60% of Democrats approve of the job he is doing. If he falls out of favor with the unions, that number could drop significantly.

How low it could go is anyone’s guess, but if it does get that bad, a primary challenge is just around the corner.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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