Concerns Linger About IA's Unemployment Cuts
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Summer construction season is in full swing, and labor leaders in Iowa worry how seasonal workers will be affected down the road by changes to the state's unemployment rules. And those aren't their only concerns.
Iowa implemented a law on July 1, which cuts jobless benefits from 26 weeks down to 16. And there is now a shorter window for when a recipient must accept a lower-paying job.
Pete Hird, secretary/treasurer of the Iowa Federation of Labor/AFL-CIO, said a person who does road work or other forms of construction will be shortchanged during an early- or late-winter season.
"The worker doesn't have any control of these situations," Hird pointed out. "They spent their whole life learning to do one trade, and then all of a sudden, the weather turns around and kind of messes that all up."
Supporters of the changes, including Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, argued the move is a form of encouragement amid the state's workforce shortage. Despite challenges in filling open positions, Iowa's labor participation rate is near 68%, which is above the national average.
Hird noted his organization also is concerned about how Iowa modified language dealing with employee misconduct. He contended it opens the door to people being denied benefits without much recourse.
"We're really worried it's just gonna lead to further legal fights for people," Hird stressed. "The average person doesn't have an attorney on hand like an employer does. "
Groups opposed to the changes acknowledged there is not much opportunity in the near future to reverse them with Republicans in firm control of state government. In the meantime, Hird added they are doing their best to educate workers.
Democratic leaders have argued other remedies, such as raising Iowa's minimum wage, would move the needle in fixing the workforce shortage problem.
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