What Iowa Union Workers Want in a Presidential Candidate

ALTOONA, Iowa -- Fifteen presidential candidates pitched their ideas to help union members at the Iowa Federation Labor Convention Wednesday.

Common topics brought up included safe working conditions, better wages, abolishing right-to-work laws, healthcare, the right to bargain and retirement. Although each candidate had their own different specific policy ideas, they all told voters they want to focus on investing in America's workers.

Union member Gary Pickett said they feel forgotten by the current administration.

"I do not feel as he [Trump] has been there for the middle class, he talked a good talk but he didn’t walk the walk so we need to change the way we’re doing that and get a Democrat back in office," Pickett said. 

He said he wants to see a candidate who prioritizes strengthening unions and works for their issues in the White House. Pickett said he has not decided on a specific candidate yet, but was impressed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders at the convention. The two candidates appeared to audibly energize the crowd the most.

In her speech, Warren said "unions built America's middle class and unions will rebuild America's middle class," which resonated with Mike McCarthy, who is a retired union worker.

"We gotta rebuild the union so we can help not only people in the union but all workers because we set the standard for the working class," McCarthy said. 

In 1989, more than 15 percent of Iowa's workers were union members. Currently, membership has fallen below 8 percent, which many candidates said is problematic. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said one of his priorities will be to double union membership if he were elected.

Many candidates also took jabs at President Donald Trump. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said "this President has stood with his wealthy friends. Me, I will stand with you." Ken Sagar, president of the AFL-CIO, agreed with this sentiment. 

"This administration has done a marvelous job at protecting people at the top percent, not so much for the rest of us," Sagar said. 

Sagar talked to the importance of this event, and why the organization was happy to bring in candidates who are speaking to union workers' needs.

"We think that it's kinda a rigged system right now that people at the top are reaping the benefits of all the work that we’re doing," he said. "We need to make sure that average Americans and average Iowans have the opportunity to succeed."

Many union members said they will not be endorsing a candidate anytime soon, but were happy to hear candidates talking about the issues that affect them.

"The race is just starting, so I wanna see how this plays out among the different candidates. I wanna see how these candidate work through these current issues and plus I wanna see their vision for the future. So it's still too early," McCarthy said.
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