The “six pack” is targeted

Iowa Federation of Labor president Ken Sager made it clear this morning during taping of the Iowa Public TV program, "Iowa Press," that the six Democrats in the Iowa House who oppose the "prevailing wage" bill have made union forces unhappy.  Below is a transcript of the relevant section of the program.

Mike Glover of the Associated Press"Mr. Sager, it wouldn't be an official Iowa Press show if we didn't spend a little time talking about politics. Your labor organization and other unions spent a lot of time, effort and money electing Democrats to the legislature. The Democrats in that legislature rejected the first major piece of labor legislation that came up this year.  Are there going to be some primaries next year?"

Sager"I think we're clearly going to look closely at those people who've supported us and will look closely at some of the others. We're trying to do an analysis to see where we have possibilities to do some positive things in terms of electing people who are going to support working families' issues.  We are going to start putting together some committees in some districts and I'm sure that as time goes by we'll have longer list of districts…"

Glover:  "So your message to people in the legislature is: 'if you don't support us, watch out.'"

Sager:  "That's always been labor's message.  The business community does the same thing.  If you don't support ABI's proposals, they'll find somebody to run against you.  It shouldn't be any suprise that the labor movement has the same philosophy with regard to our agenda."

David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register:  "But Mr. Sager, a strategic question:  Don't you run the risk of weakening some of these Democratic incuments.  They're called the six-pack — the six Democrats in the Iowa House of Representatives who have not gone along with you on prevailing wage.  We're talking about those legislators.  If you primary them, aren't you going to weaken them — enabling the Republicans to win in November?"

Sager:  "That's entirely possible."

Yepsen:  "And that doesn't bother you?"

Sager:  "No."

(Background: In case you're wondering, the members of the "six-pack" are Representatives McKinley Bailey of Webster City, Geri Huser of Altoona, Doris Kelley of Waterloo, Larry Marek of Riverside, Dolores Mertz of Ottosen and Brian Quirk of New Hampton.)

Yepsen:  "Why don't you try the other tactic of defeating some Republicans.  You've got some Republicans out there that Democrats narrowly lost (to) last time.  Why don't you add to the Democratic majority rather than try to knock some off?"

Sager:  "We'll probably do both."

A few moments later, the Right-to-Work law was referenced.

Yepsen:  "Mr. Sager, Right-to-Work has come up here.  Iowa has a long tradition of being a Right-to-Work state.  Why don't you try to change that law?"

Sager:  "I think that effectively, that's what we're trying to do by amending the Right-to-Work statute to say we will allow employers on one hand and unions on the other who mutually agree to put a clause in their contract."

Yepsen: "And why won't that, why do you think that will work now when it hasn't worked in Iowa politics for the last 60 years?"

Sager:  "Times have changed.  I think that people, frankly, are tired.  Unions may have 10 percent of the workforce, but I think many of the things that we do cover many workers.  We try to improve safety rules.  That affects everybody that works…"

Yepsen:  "But if unions.."

Sager:  "We work on minimum wage.  That doesn't affect our mrembers, but it's the right thing to make sure that people have money for their families, to be a contributing part of our society, rather than a drain."

Yepsen:  "If unions are so great, why is union membership going down?"

Sager:  "Actually it went up.  Two years in a row it's gone up.  One of the things that we see is an overwhelming desire to oppose unionization in the business community.  That's why we're talking about the Employee Free Choice Act at the national level.  Data shows right now that 53 percent of Americans would join unions if they weren't afraid that they would lose their job and frankly that translates to 60-some million people.  It'd be a different country if that many people were involved in the labor movement."

Watch the show on ITPV tonight at 6:30 p.m.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.