Backers of legislation they say would make it easier to form labor unions have issued a report that says the federal measure would help over 40,000 Iowans get health insurance. Representatives of the Institute for America’s Future say "The Employee Free Choice Act " provides penalties for businesses that try to block the formation of unions. Michael Crawford of the Child and Family Policy Center in Iowa, says the act would have the biggest impact on low-income workers.
Crawford says the largest monthly expense for many of these families is health insurance coverage. He says that’s becoming more true as more employers chose not to pay health insurance for employees, or require employees to pay for their own coverage. Crawford says currently one in every five jobs in Iowa and the U.S. are a low-income jobs paying below the poverty level. Crawford says increasing union membership and health coverage would also benefit kids.
Crawford says Iowa does provide health insurance coverage for children up to 200-percent of the poverty level, but the level of coverage is lower for adults. He says research shows children are more likely to be covered by health insurance if their parents are covered. Crawford says this legislation would make a big dent in the number of uninsured Iowans.
Crawford says the uninsured rate in Iowa is now about nine-percent, and he says the 40-thousand people who would pick up insurance under The Employee Free Choice Act would help lower the uninsured rate to about seven percent. Dan Holub, the director of the Iowa Labor Center, says it’s estimated the act would also allow nearly 36,000 Iowans to gain a pension plan.
Holub says only 14-percent of non-union workers have a guaranteed pension savings plan, while 68-percent of union workers do. Holub says only half of all workers have a 401-k savings plan. Holub says this will lead to a massive number of elderly poor that families and communities will have to care for as these employees reach retirement age. Holub says this legislation would take a big step toward improving the retirement years of workers.
Holub says, "Restoring workers’ freedom to form a union, I think is the most effective solution to the pension crisis our country faces today, with a greater number of workers able to organize and bargain for pensions, 36,000 more in Iowa alone, it would help raise living standards for all workers." Holub says the retail industry has one of the best potentials for forming new unions. Crawford says the service industry would also likely benefit.
Crawford says he’s seen data that the largest increase in jobs in the midwest has been in the leisure and hospitality, food service industries. Crawford says those industries traditionally haven’t been unionized. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin joined the teleconference today in support of the measure. The act has already passed the U.S. House and is expected to come up in the Senate later this year.