Ken Sagar, the president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, says it’s a way to increase participation in the Caucuses. “One way to maintain our first-in-the-nation status, I believe, is to push more people into the process and show the nation that yeah, we do take politics seriously,” Sagar says.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters argued her third place finish in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses was caused, in part, because low wage employees and shift workers could not get time off to attend the Caucuses. Iowa Democratic Party executive director Ben Foecke says this bill would address those concerns.
“It’s second shift folks that would be affected by this bill. The overnight folks — we’re not having Caucuses at 3 a.m., no matter what happens,” Foecke says. “This will allow a lot more people to participate.”
The bill would require workers to notify their boss at least 72 hours before they want time off to go to the Caucuses. Nicole Crane, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, says that’s not enough time for some manufacturers to make adjustments in the production line.
“So we just want to make sure if this is something the legislature wants to do that there are safeguards in place for those employers who really can’t afford to have those employees leave and shut down their operations,” Crane says.
The bill does give businesses veto power over time off for Caucus attendance if the worker’s absence would endanger public safety or cause “severe economic disruption” to the business.
Under the current party rules, you must be present at your precinct meeting on Caucus night in order to vote in the event which serves as the kick-off for the presidential nominating season. Democrats last year started a conversation about changes that would expand participation and, for example, the party plans to have someone on staff coordinate babysitting services for parents who want to caucuses.