Our unemployment rate is low (3.7% as of November 2021) and yet fewer Iowans
are working today than when Governor Reynolds took office. We also have more
job openings than people without jobs.
We have a workforce crisis. That is the case across much of the country, but it
impacts Iowa particularly hard because of our ageing population, as well as the
number of people, mostly women, who have – at least temporarily – dropped out
of the workforce because of childcare-related issues.
The workforce crisis impacts virtually every industry, including healthcare,
education and the service industries. It hurts our kids’ education because fewer
full-time and substitute teachers mean larger class sizes and daily uncertainty,
especially when it comes to the virulence of the Omicron variant. Young, talented
people are leaving the state, in no small part in response to laws the Republican
trifecta has either enacted or threatened to enact, targeting LGBTQ and
transgender youth, reproductive healthcare and the constitutional right to
abortion, the failure to keep our water clean and underfunding of education. We
need more than a band-aid – our workforce issues need major surgery.
Otherwise, the brain drain and youth flight will continue unabated.
Raise the minimum wage; $15/hour should be the floor (it currently sits at
$7.25, among the lowest in the nation).
Restore Chapter 20 collective bargaining rights and ditch right-to-work.
Subsidize wages for childcare providers so they can earn a decent living and
parents can return to the work force (solving the childcare crisis is complex
– some helpful actions are being taken at the state level; much remains to
Approach the pandemic with a practical, science- and public health-based
approach – the better it is under control, the better our economy will be.
Fully fund our public schools, as excellence in public education draws young
families here and keeps them here.
Consider carrot, rather than stick approaches – having Iowa Workforce
Development navigators can be helpful; however, the governor also
announced plans to cut unemployment benefits and make it more difficult
to get benefits just when people most need the support.
Be a welcoming state that does not discriminate. That includes supporting
women’s reproductive rights, caring for the environment (clean water is
high on the list) and supporting policies that allow communities to thrive.