Union recruitment struggles in So-Called “Right to Work” state of Iowa

Russ Jaeger, Business Manager for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers Local 263, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss his union’s struggles in the So-Called “Right to Work” state of Iowa, where there is a Republican controlled legislature and governor.

He also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic is causing people to rethink ventilation systems and countertop materials.

Lastly, he discussed the SMART registered apprenticeship program and efforts to educate guidance counselors and parents about the benefits of a registered apprenticeship program as a pathway to a solid middle class job.

So-Called “Right to Work” is a challenge for union recruitment

Iowa is a decidedly red state, but not by an overwhelming majority, Jaeger said. A law was passed in 2017 that banned Project Labor Agreements from any taxpayer funded projects and Iowa is also a So-Called “Right to Work” state, which makes union recruitment challenging.

Nevertheless, SMART does everything it can to recruit new members and educate the populace of the benefits of union membership, he said. Its members regularly attend school board meetings, city council meetings and other local political events to advocate for unions.

SMART does have a few candidates running for local office, and recruitment efforts are moving in the right direction, he added.

Property managers rethink ventilation, countertops after COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many property managers are revamping their ventilation systems. This is something that needed to be done anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated it. Ultraviolet light is being added to ventilation systems to purify the air and systems are being designed to filter in fresher air, said Jaeger.

People are even changing how they approach countertops, replacing wood or formica countertops with stainless steel that is less susceptible to spreading germs, Jaeger said.

Parents, guidance counselors see increased value in union apprenticeships

Members of SMART are also working to educate guidance counselors, parents and teens about the benefits of a registered apprenticeship program as a pathway to the middle class. More people are realizing students do not need to incur tens of thousands of dollars in student debt to land a good paying job. Union jobs bring opportunities for a middle class lifestyle without the need for a college education.


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