The Iowa Federation of Labor is launching an “education campaign” to convince the more than 100,000 union members in Iowa to vote.
Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, says if there is any “malaise” among union activists, it’s not because President Obama has been “overreaching” on issues.
“People had great hopes and expectations and the opportunity escaped us to do a new New Deal which I think fundamentally would have rebuilt the 20th century infrastructure and started to establish a 21st century infrastructure,” Sagar says. “But we’ve got, regrettably, one party that’s more interested in assuring the failure of the other party than assuring the success of the American people.”
About 77 percent of union members voted in 2008, compared to about 56 percent of the general population. In 2010, Sagar’s organization is focusing on driving up union voter turn-out in a so-called “mid-term” election when there’s no presidential contest on the ballot, and fewer people vote.
“Fundamentally, most people aren’t political junkies,” Sagar says. “…When you start defining politics as, ‘We need policies for job growth,’ then people start saying, ‘Oh yeah,’ and then they’re not so reluctant anymore.”
The AFL-CIO is sending mailers and making phone calls into Iowa’s second and third congressional districts, in support of Democratic incumbents Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell. Sagar says the Iowa Federation of Labor is active in races “up and down the ballot,” for the county courthouse, the statehouse and the U.S. congress.
Turn-out among union members tends to go up during times of economic turmoil, according to Sagar. The Iowa Federation of Labor has conducted a survey to gauge which issue is paramount for union members and found few consider the retention election involving three Iowa Supreme Court justices to be of interest.
“Most people aren’t interested in that,” Sagar says. “Is that on some people’s radar screens? Yes, but people want jobs. I mean, we’ve got some of the building trades (with) 25 to 40 percent unemployment. It’s just incredible.”
The group “Iowa for Freedom” has begun running ads calling on Iowans to “vote no” on the three supreme court justices on the November ballot because of the court’s gay marriage ruling.