IOWA CITY — The latest federal data shows about 105,000 union members were in Iowa’s workforce last year. That’s seven percent of the entire workforce and the first increase in statewide union membership in four years.
Paul Iverson at the University of Iowa Labor Center says it’s partly due to the impact of the pandemic. “The increased militance of workers in places like Starbucks and Amazon that are organizing,” Iverson says, “the increased number of strikes and workers getting together and saying we’re not going to take the same conditions that we had before COVID.”
Recent strikes — and even the threat of a strike — are drawing attention to the labor movement’s impact, according to Iverson. “Places that have to compete with John Deere — John Deere gets a better contract, they’d better increase their pay if they want to compete in the job market,” Iverson says. “While the statistics say that 105,000 are union members and 132,000 are represented by unions — 27,000 people who are represented who have chosen not to become members, it underestimates how many people’s livelihoods are affected by the labor unions in the state.”
Last week Iverson visited the picket line at Thombert in Newton where 84 United Auto Workers went on strike August 1st. Thombert is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of polyurethane wheels for electric forklifts.