Axne says economy depends on fair wages for workers

Rep. Cindy Axne represents Iowa's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.

Our workers are the backbone of our economy, and they deserve fair pay, health insurance and a secure retirement.

That’s why I’m standing in solidarity with the UAW workers at John Deere who have been on strike for more than two weeks.

These folks are asking their employer to provide them with a dignified living in return for their hard work. Our economy relies on a strong middle class. When employers don’t live up to their end of the bargain, it hurts everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequity in our society. While tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and source of income last year, America’s billionaires grew their wealth by a combined $931 billion.

This inequity stems from a decades-long assault on workers’ rights that has been funded by wealthy special interest groups for the last 40 years.

Relentless attacks on workers’ rights have cut union membership by more than half. On average, the bottom 90% of households in the U.S. have only seen incomes rise by 1.1% since 1979. In that same time frame, the average income for the wealthiest 1% has increased more than 184%.

To return some fairness to the system and give workers a better chance to negotiate for a better living, I’ve co-sponsored and voted for the Protecting Rights to Organize (PRO) Act in both of my terms in Congress.

Hardworking Iowans who work every single day to support themselves and their families deserve a voice in their workplace. The PRO Act ensures workers’ rights to collectively bargain for adequate pay and benefits, fair hours and healthy and safe working conditions.

Even though we have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring everyone has a chance to make a fair living, I know skilled-labor jobs are key to the next generation of Iowans.

Skilled-trade training opportunities are much more affordable than four-year degrees, but we are still faced with a critical shortage of workers in many skilled-trade fields.

One of my top priorities has been to connect Iowans with skills training opportunities, because I understand the incredible benefits that can come from pursuing a good-paying career in trades like carpentry, nursing and welding. That’s why I’ve fought to advance legislation that would increase funding for job skills training programs offered through the U.S. Department of Labor.

These are investments to fund federal programs for the next fiscal year — including $3.1 billion for grants from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, $1.83 billion for Job Corps and $285 million for Registered Apprenticeships.

The bill we passed in the House also includes an amendment I wrote to increase grant funding for community colleges that offer career skills training programs designed specifically to help Iowans who have been laid off or otherwise displaced from a job through no fault of their own, such as workers who lost their job during the pandemic.

I also introduced legislation to ensure members of the National Guard and Reserve who are leaving military service have direct access to skills training programs.

The U.S. Department of Defense connects departing active duty servicemembers to in-demand skills training and prospective employers who are ready to hire through their SkillBridge program, but the service is not offered to members of the National Guard or Reserve.

SkillBridge is a wonderful example of the success we can have when our public sector and private businesses work together. Employers like Google, Amazon and some our nation’s largest skilled trade unions cover the costs of training new veterans and connecting them to highly skilled, in-demand civilian jobs after their service.

My bill, the Transition for Success Act, would expand access to the SkillBridge program by allowing all National Guard and Reserve servicemembers to participate in the program when they depart military service, regardless of whether they are on active duty status or not. This legislation passed the House last month.

The program has already been successful for veterans across the country, and we need to offer the same respect and this same option to those who have served our country in a reservist role or as members of the National Guard.

When I was sworn into office, I promised to be a voice for Iowa’s workers, and that means making sure our laws protect our workers’ rights and voices, and ensuring everyone has a fair shot at making a good living.

Rep. Cindy Axne of West Des Moines represents Iowa’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.


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