If John Kerry and his advisors have made a list of Tom Vilsack’s assets and liabilities, one item in the plus column would be Vilsack’s relationship with organized labor. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union — known as AFSCME — endorsed Vilsack when he first ran for governor and the union is credited with a lot of the legwork that led to Vilsack’s 1998 victory. Jan Corderman, president of the Iowa branch of AFSCME, says the union’s relationship with Vilsack dates back even farther, to when Vilsack was a state senator representing a town with two state-run institutions.
“It’s very helpful that he’s a policy wonk because that’s what we end up dealing with is policies and how they impact our members and the services we provide,” Corderman said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
Thousands of state workers have lost their jobs due to budget cuts during Vilsack’s tenure as governor, but wages have grown and the latest union contract forbids state government managers from ordering workers to take unpaid days off as a means of cutting salary expenses. Experts say one of Vilsack’s political liabilities was his decision to approve the law that declared English as the state’s official language. It angered many democrats and even republican President George Bush opposes so-called “English Only” efforts.
Reverend Carlos Jayne of Des Moines was part of the Immigrant Rights Network, asking Vilsack to veto the bill.
“This is a slam at immgrants when you declare an ‘English Only’ bill. You are in effect saying that the immigrants, that the people who do not speak English are somehow two steps behind us in status,” Jayne said during an interview with Radio Iowa. But Reverend Jayne isn’t willing to say Vilsack’s action on this issue disqualifies him from being vice president.
“I still think Tom Vilsack is a great governor, but I’m not going to give him an A plus on every issue because there are some things I just don’t agree with him on,” Jayne said. In early May, Senator Kerry told Radio Iowa he thought Vilsack had done a good job as governor during difficult times.