The Iowa Federation of Labor has a new leader. Fifty-two-year-old Ken Sagar of Des Moines was elected Iowa AFL/CIO president this past weekend. Sagar isn’t the type to let loose with an earsplitting roar to rally his union members.
"Many years ago when I was at my local union I realized that I can’t yell louder than 300 people in a room," Sagar says. "I found that if I talked quietly, everybody has to be quiet…and so calm and cool and collected, so to speak, has served me fairly well." Sagar believes his approach works.
"It does help in some of those tense situations if there is somebody who is just a little softer-spoken," he says. One of Sagar’s goals is to "organize the unorganized."
"I think there are a lot of organizing efforts being undertaken by many unions around the state," he says. "There are several efforts in public sector, health care, in manufacturing. I think the vast majority of unions right now are as engaged as they’ve ever been in my recollection."
Sagar got his start in the labor movement when he was working at a power plant in Cedar Rapids and joined the local electrical workers union. "And I forgot how to say, ‘No,’ when they started asking me if I’d volunteer to be this committee and that committee," he says. "I was elected in 1985 to be the business manager and financial secretary of my local union; served there for nearly 13 years."
In 1997, Sagar was elected the secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Federation of Labor and after nearly 11 years in that job he’s risen to the top post in the organization. Sagar replaces Mark Smith, who retired on February 1st. Sagar is currently treasurer for the Iowa Democratic Party, too. Sagar was born in Webster City and has lived in Ames, Nevada, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Marion and Pleasant Hill over the course of his 52 years in Iowa.