CEDAR RAPIDS — A member of the Iowa Federation of Labor’s board of directors says union workers are “tuned in” to politics like never before.
“People are fed up. We know that when fear turns to anger, people start to organize,” says Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 238 in Cedar Rapids. “We’re mobilizing like we’ve never mobilized before. We’re move militant than we’ve ever been before.”
On Saturday, the Teamsters will host five Democratic presidential candidates at a forum in Cedar Rapids. Case says the candidates will be asked about issues that are critical to union workers.
“Like retirement security and the right of workers to organize and form a union,” Case says. “These are issues that are easily avoidable on the campaign trail, but they’re issues that are important not only to Teamsters, but to workers across the country.”
Case, who began working in the union movement in the 1980 when he helped organize a local union at a packing plant in Storm Lake, does not expect the Teamsters to endorse a candidate before the Iowa Caucuses.
“We’re going to let the process roll out,” Case says. “We also represent several of the campaigns and we want to make sure we’re not putting on thumb on the scale for a Teamster-represented candidate or anyone else.”
Three of the candidates who’ll speak at the Teamsters event — Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar — have campaign workers who are represented by the union. The two other candidates who’ll speak Saturday are Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ staffers signed a contract negotiated by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Buttigieg staff are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The Teamsters also represent employees of the Iowa Democratic Party.