Representatives of the two warring sides in the statehouse battle over labor-related bills squared off this morning during taping of an Iowa Public TV program.

Ken Sager, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, represented the union side in the debate. “We need to do things that will help strengthen the middle class,” Sager said, “and, frankly, there’s no better way to do that than to give unions a voice in the workplace and make that a process by which we can help generate more good jobs.”

John Gilliland of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry represented the management side of the equation in dismissing one bill in particular that would have required a region’s “prevailing wage” be paid to workers on taxpayer-funded construction projects. “This bill was nothing more than an attempt by 10 percent of Iowans who belong to a union to force their agenda on the other 90 percent of us,” Gilliland said.

Sager argued it’s time to pass a series of pro-union bills because something must be done to change the status quo in Iowa. “We’ve operated under a model for a number of years in this state that says we want to have a low wage state and we’ve accomplished that,” Sager said. “We’re 41st in the nation in wages.”

Gilliland countered that improving the tax climate will yield better results. “I think we all agree that we want higher paying jobs here, higher wage jobs,” Gilliland said, “so we do that by attracting those type of employers to Iowa.”

In addition to that “prevailing wage” bill which failed by one vote to clear the Iowa House last month, three other labor-related bills are pending at the statehouse. On Monday, a public hearing will be held in the Iowa House on one bill that would let workers injured on the job seek out a doctor of their own choice rather than be treated by a physician chosen by their employer.