Sen. Wahls: Reynolds Workforce Crisis is a Worker Crisis
To: Interested Parties
From: Iowa Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls
RE: Reynolds Workforce Crisis is a Worker Crisis
Date: May 19, 2022
Iowa Workforce Development will release its report on the April jobs numbers tomorrow. In advance of that report, Iowans should have all the facts surrounding Iowa’s workforce crisis, created by Governor Kim Reynolds. Since taking office, Gov. Reynolds has refused to enact policies that support working Iowans. Instead, she has focused on cutting unemployment benefits and forcing Iowans into jobs that don’t pay enough, all in an effort to give the wealthy and big businesses massive tax breaks. Iowans need our governor to value hard work and make sure employers pay their employees what they are owed. We can’t solve the Reynolds workforce crisis by continuing to sell out to corporations. We must attract workers by making Iowa a great place to live, work and raise a family. We need to keep young Iowans in Iowa.
The Reynolds Workforce Crisis is a Worker Crisis
Fewer Iowans are working today than when Gov. Reynolds first took office. Instead of helping workers, Gov. Reynolds has taken away workers’ hard earned benefits. Not only did she call workers lazy in her Condition of the State address, she cut off federal aid for the unemployed during a pandemic. Now, she is trying to cut unemployment assistance nearly in half to force Iowans into jobs that don’t pay enough. We know slashing unemployment benefits won’t solve the Reynolds Workforce Crisis, since there are nearly twice as many open jobs in our state than there are unemployed Iowans.
Despite near unanimous agreement from public workers, Iowa Republicans lead the charge to take away public worker’s rights by gutting Chapter 20, the law allowing workers parameters to negotiate with employers. By signing this legislation, Gov. Reynolds sent a clear message against worker’s rights in the state of Iowa.
Gov. Reynolds has repeatedly sold out Iowans in favor of her corporate donors. The flat tax signed into law by Gov. Reynolds and Republican lawmakers is a gift to the wealthiest Iowans and means more tax breaks for corporations. Under this tax plan, the wealthy get the biggest benefits and state revenues would be reduced by nearly $1.9 billion, meaning less money for public services.
Oxfam America ranks Iowa as one of the worst states to work in the country, with wage and labor policies that harm working families.
Common Sense Solutions
There are a number of common sense solutions that Governor Reynolds could pursue to address the workforce crisis she created. Iowa’s working families would be far better off if Reynolds and the legislature enacted all of these policies:
- Fully fund Iowa’s public schools
- Raise the minimum wage
- Require wealthy corporations pay what they owe
- Implement a fair, progressive tax system
- Expand tax credits for working families
- Limit families’ childcare costs
- Protect the right to join a union
- End tax cuts for wealthy corporations
- Supporting legislation like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 (WIOA) that was passed by Rep. Cindy Axne in the U.S. House
- There are far more open jobs in Iowa than unemployed Iowans. More than 90,000 open jobs in Iowa, just over 55,000 unemployed Iowans in March (Source: Iowa Workforce Development)
- HF 2355 slashes unemployment benefits from 26 to 16 weeks, which will only further hurt workers who have been laid off, keep wages low, and make Iowa a more unwelcoming state.
- Reynolds says Iowa’s unemployment benefits have taken away people’s desire to work. Her effort to force Iowans into low-paying jobs doesn’t work, according to the research, it fails to pull a significant number of Iowans into the workforce. (Source: NY Times)
- Corporate Kim Reynolds and the Republican-led legislature are driving workers out of Iowa. (Source: Iowa Starting Line)
- A majority of Iowans don’t support Reynolds plan to cut unemployment benefits (Source: DMR)
- Despite near unanimous agreement from public workers, Iowa Republicans lead the charge to take away public worker’s rights and gut Chapter 20, the law allowing workers parameters to negotiate with employers. By signing this legislation, Gov Reynolds sent a clear message against worker’s rights in the state of Iowa. (Source: Des Moines Register)
- At the height of the pandemic, Gov Kim Reynolds cut off federal unemployment benefits for Iowans. Reynolds inaccurately stated that these payments were preventing Iowans from returning to work. Predictably, there was no surge in employment following this move. (Source: CR Gazette)
- National figures showed unemployment claims dropping nationwide; however, in Iowa, unemployment claims were up. Gov Reynolds falsely attributed Iowa’s worker shortage to “laziness” rather than the restrictive measures she and Republican lawmakers put in place to punish unemployed Iowans and those seeking employment. (Source: Axios)
- Iowa lost 1,500 jobs in March (Source: IWD)
- Iowa ranks as one of the worst states to work in (Source: Oxfam America)
- Iowa job growth lags behind national job growth. “An Iowa Workforce Development news release showed the state gained 3,100 jobs for the month, an increase in total employment of about 0.2%. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nationally, the job gain for November was 0.7%.” (Source: DMR)
- “Though an early leader in job recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in 2020, Iowa has seen slow job growth for most of the past year. That’s despite the state’s efforts to spur people to return to work with an early cutoff in June of federal pandemic unemployment assistance, which had boosted unemployment payments since spring 2020.” (Source: DMR)
- As Lt. Gov., Reynolds helped block legislation that would allow counties to enforce a higher minimum wage (Source: CR Gazette)
- Gov. Reynolds has refused to raise the minimum wage (Source: Sioux City Journal)
- “Iowa workers have to earn well over the minimum wage, and in some cases well above the state’s median wage, to meet even an exceptionally frugal basic-needs budget.” (Source: Common Good Iowa)