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Iowa labor leader: Iowans deserve better

Ken Sagar at Labor Temple in Mason City
Ken Sagar at Labor Temple in Mason City
By Ken Sagar, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

It’s no secret – many hardworking Iowa families are struggling. That is why it is so disheartening that Governor Branstad’s administration has responded to Iowans’ calls for change with sleight of hand. Rather than take steps to help Iowa families, the governor and his cronies are playing political games with important employment information.

Since reassuming office, Governor Branstad’s has failed to create better conditions or develop better job training and preparation programs for workers. In fact, he has limited access for job assistance services by closing dozens of Workforce Development offices across the state. Rather than taking real steps to create jobs, he and his administration have devoted their energies to hiding the problem by developing a manipulated statistic that can return inflated employment numbers.

The statistic is called ‘gross over-the-month employment gains.’ In its attempt to view Iowa’s employment problem through rose-colored glasses, the Branstad Administration has added this statistic to the Iowa Workforce Development’s monthly jobs total reporting.

As the name implies, this new number only counts jobs added. Obviously, this gives a flawed idea of the true jobs situation, as it doesn’t account for jobs lost during the same duration. Think about it: You are hired for a temporary job, and a few weeks later your temporary position is no longer needed and you are let go. Given the nature of temporary work, this could happen three or four times in a year.

Under Governor Branstad’s fuzzy math, you’ve helped to create three or four Iowa jobs over this period. It doesn’t matter that each one of those jobs ended. According to the Branstad administration, four jobs have been created. This comes despite the fact that, at best, only one of these jobs existed at a time.

It is shameful, and ultimately damaging to Iowans, for the Governor to waste taxpayers’ money and state officials’ time on this sort of shenanigans. This isn’t a jobs strategy. It’s a political strategy to defend a Branstad campaign promise.

While running for governor, candidate Branstad pledged to create 200,000 new jobs for the state. So far, he has fallen far short of that promise. According to figures available on the Iowa Workforce Development website, only 7,400 more Iowans had jobs in August 2013 than in January 2011 when Governor Branstad took office. Given that Governor Branstad is in the tail end of the third year of his current term, he has very little to show for his efforts.

This summer Governor Branstad gave a speech at an ALEC event where he stated that there are more Iowan’s working then at any time in the state’s history. Yet an Iowa Workforce Development report (Iowa’s Workforce and the Economy 2013) does not show the Governor’s statement to be true.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Accountability Project filed an open records request with Iowa Workforce Development, asking that it make public its conversations with the governor and members of his administration about how this dubious number has made its way into official state business.
Iowa families deserve a full accounting of what the “gross over-the-month employment gains” statistic means. But more than that, they deserve real job creating actions and policies out of the governor and his administration. Flawed numbers and rosy looking reports don’t keep a roof over Iowa families’ heads, or put food on their tables. Jobs do that, and it’s time Governor Branstad helps deliver some real ones.

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