Union Leaders Urge Workers to Support "Labor-Friendly" Candidates
SIOUX CITY, Iowa - John Hamm, Northwest Iowa Labor Council president, urged Labor Day picnic guests Monday to band together to elect "labor-friendly" candidates who promise to protect the rights and benefits of working men and women.
"We gotta be thinking about what's coming up this election year," Hamm said in a booming voice from a podium positioned under a towering hickory tree at Riverside Park as steady rain fell. "(Benefits) are things people fought for and fought very hard for us to get. The only way we're going to maintain those benefits is by getting labor-friendly people elected this fall."
About 300 people gathered at the park to feast on hamburgers and hotdogs, play horseshoes and listen to several speakers including former Iowa first lady and congressional candidate Christie Vilsack.
Vilsack, a Democrat from Ames, Iowa, is running against U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, for a seat in the 4th District.
Vilsack, dressed in a pink hooded raincoat, told the crowd of people huddling under a shelter and umbrellas that if she is elected she will make sure that Iowans can continue to live in small towns across the state and work one good paying job, not three minimum wage jobs.
"My goal in running for Congress is to revitalize the middle class," she said.
Gary Davis, of Sioux City, said he attends the Northwest Iowa Labor Council's annual Labor Day picnic every year to support the unions.
The maintenance worker said politicians need to back policies that support the wages, benefits and rights of working people.
"We can't afford to lose that," he said. "We need the middle class and the workers."
Luisa Lara, of Sioux City, said she would like to see workers receive more vacation time and better insurance coverage. Lara said she has been attending the picnic for years to support her parents, who work at Tyson Foods in Dakota City, Neb.
"It helps our parents fight for their rights when they're working," she said of the labor unions. "We're supporting them to get what they need."
Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, told those gathered that working men and women are the "heartbeat" of the country. He urged them to "make a difference" in the remaining 60 days before the election.
"We're the only voice for working people," he said. "We're the only voice standing between corporations taking everything and us having a fair share. Without our minds and muscles, nothing would get done in this country."
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