Iowa seems to be ground zero in an assault on worker rights in early 2017. US Representative Steve King of Sioux City — who identifies himself as Catholic — has distinguished himself both by sponsoring national “right-to-work” legislation and as a leading defender of the President’s executive actions targeting immigrants and refugees. At the state level, over the objections of Iowa’s Catholic Bishops, legislators have adopted legislation stripping public employees of most bargaining rights. The Iowa Catholic Conference reminded legislators that “workers retain their right of association whether they work for a private employer or for the government,” and urged that the state’s budget challenges be resolved through dialogue and negotiation, but were rebuffed.
The legislation is similar to Wisconsin’s “Act 10,” a 2011 measure by Governor Scott Walker that took away unions’ rights to bargain over health and pension benefits, limited raises to the rate of inflation and created administrative hurdles for unions in recruiting and retaining members. Bishop Jerome Listecki, writing for the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, advised that while the state’s budget problems called for shared sacrifice, “hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.” Bishop Stephen Blaire, on behalf of USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, quickly endorsed Bishop Listecki’s message.