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February 9th, 2010

TIR Poll: 61% of Iowans Oppose Labor Agenda

TIRConcordiaPollNow that we are in the midst of another session of the Iowa legislature, the labor unions are once again trying to advance their agenda. Just a year ago, all four legislative priorities of the unions were defeated by the Democrat controlled legislature. That would make a normal person think that the chances of passing any labor bill this year is slim to none.

Politics, however, isn’t an arena where normal people play and common sense reigns supreme. Like clockwork, State Representative Rick Olson, the Chairman of the House Labor Committee, introduced House Study Bill 702, a bill that would gut Iowa’s right to work status which has been the law in the state for more than 60 years. The legislation would force non-union members to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.

Labor unions such as AFSCME and SEIU are hell-bent to pass some or all of their four legislative priorities before this fall’s general elections, and with Democrats now feeling vulnerable, they may be inclined to pass pro-union legislation in order to earn union support in the up-coming elections.

While it’s easy to see why Iowa Democrats might feel the need to make sure the state’s largest unions are happy and motivated leading up to Election Day, the public overwhelmingly opposes these labor bills. The most recent TIR/Concordia Group poll, shows that 61% of those surveyed would be more likely to vote against Governor Culver if he supported a bill that would end Iowa’s right to work laws.

The TIR/Concordia Group poll shows that public opposition to the union agenda has actually grown in that last seven months. In July of 2009, 50% of those surveyed would be more likely to vote against Governor Culver if he supported a bill that would end Iowa’s right to work laws. Since then, the number has jumped 11 points.

In 2007, a Wall Street Journal editorial said, “If the Iowa legislature wanted to chase jobs and employers out of the state, they couldn’t come up with a better plan than undermining right to work.” Regardless of public sentiment, Iowa Democrats seem willing to move forward with the labor union agenda.

Just yesterday, Democrats introduced another controversial labor bill – prevailing wage legislation. This piece of legislation saw a lot of activity last year when it was debated for some 97 hours in the Iowa House and was the subject of one of the most bizarre legislative stunts seen in the past 30 years when Speaker of the House Pat Murphy kept the voting machine open all weekend while he looked for the deciding vote.

Last year, proponents of the bill tried at the outset to narrow the bill’s scope by applying it only to public projects. They said that it would prevent shoddy work on public projects, prevent Iowa construction companies from hiring illegal workers, and prevent Iowa employers from avoiding payment of employees’ benefits. To the outside observer, they were never able to show clear examples of any of these claims. No public projects seem to be crumbling before our eyes, nor do Iowa construction companies treat their employees unfairly.

Opponents indicated that the prevailing wage bill would dramatically increase the costs of public projects, force local and state governments to scale back their building plans, and put small Iowa contractors at a competitive disadvantage as compared to large out-of-state contractors. In other words, it would have the exact opposite impact that the bill’s proponents argued. Rather than raise wages and increase employment, it would have likely cost wages and jobs, something the state of Iowa can’t afford.

Unions in Iowa represent only 10.6% of all Iowa workers according to the US Department of Labor. We’ve all heard stories about declining union membership over the past decades, and this figure really brings it home. Only 1 in 10 Iowa workers are members of a union…so, of the 1.437 million working Iowans, only approximately 153,000 belong to a union. And, the potential maximum membership in unions in Iowa (i.e. the total number of people who could belong to a union) is about 187,000…meaning there are approximately 34,000 Iowans who work at an employer who has a bargaining unit present, but they have declined membership in the union.

Of these union members, approximately 40% (61,000) are state employees. That’s why AFSCME and SEIU have become the loudest voices in the pro-labor movement.

The state needs job growth, not more powerful labor unions. With more than 110,000 Iowans out of work, it’s interesting that Iowa Democrats have made the decision to side with the labor unions instead of the job creators. It is likely that if legislative Democrats and Governor Culver move forward with the labor agenda, the public will punish them at the poll this November. Not only are the Democrats on the wrong side of the issue, but the once again, they are ignoring the will of the people


Here are some of points made by critics of Chet Culver about his record. Please tell me for each one whether it makes you more likely to vote FOR or more likely to vote AGAINST him? If this issue does not matter to you or you don’t believe the statement is correct, just let me know. (RANDOMIZE) (IF ANSWERED:) And do you feel strongly about that or just somewhat?

Chet Culver tried to end Iowa’s right to work laws and supported other issues pushed by labor unions, who were big contributors to his campaign.

More For: 17% (2009) 15% (2010)

More Against: 50% (2009) 61% (2010)

Photo by Dave Davidson

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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