One of the state’s labor leaders warns Democrats who voted against a union-backed bill may face a backlash at the ballot box in 2010. Last month a bill that would have required a "prevailing wage" be paid on taxpayer-funded construction projects got the support of 50 Democrats in the Iowa House, but five other Democrats voted against it.
"I think we’re clearly going to look closely at those people who’ve supported us and we’ll look closely at some of the others," says Iowa Federation of Labor president Ken Sager. "We’re trying to do an analysis to see where we have possibilities to do some positive things in terms of electing people who are going to support working family’s issues."
Five Democrats in the House voted against the bill. A sixth was absent when the vote was taken, but has indicated she would have voted "no" as well. Sager hints union activists are recruiting candidates so all six may face an opponent in the June 2010 Democratic primary.
"We are going to start putting together some committees in some districts and I’m sure as time goes by we’ll have a longer list," Sager says.
Sager made his comments during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, "Iowa Press," and reporter Mike Glover pressed Sager on this issue. "So your message to people in the legislature is: ‘If you don’t support us, watch out,’" Glover said.
Sager replied: "That’s always been labor’s message. The business community does the same thing. If you don’t support (the Association of Business and Industry’s) proposals, they’ll find somebody to run against you. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the labor movement has the same philosophy with regard to our agenda."
Sager added that he’s not bothered by the notion that a labor-backed Democrat who may win one of those six primaries would lose in the general election against a Republican.
John Gilliland of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry suggested the six Democrats who’re facing the ire of unions because of their vote on the "prevailing wage" bill may get support from the business community — if they survive a Democratic primary. "If they’ve got the courage to stand up to this kind of pressure, we’ll certainly be with them in November," Gilliliand said.
IPTV’s "Iowa Press" program featuring Gilliland and Sager airs tonight at 6:30.