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Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer Shared Ideas@AFSCME

Photo Credit: Jay Hutchison
Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer Shared Ideas@AFSCME
By Jay Hutchison ·

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa spoke with AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride and Next Wave Coordinator Adrian Williams about her support for collective bargaining and why young people should be politically active. Their conversation came during the latest edition of Ideas@AFSCME, AFSCME’s Facebook Live speaker series.

Finkenauer was elected to represent Iowa’s First Congressional District in November 2018 at age 29. She started the discussion Monday by describing her family's union background, which included her father, who was a union pipefitter, and her mother, a retired school district secretary. Finkenauer attributes much of her passion for labor and bipartisan cooperation in Congress to her upbringing in a union family.

The congresswoman described her family’s wide-ranging political debates that would occur after church on Sunday at her grandparents' house.

“I learned so much during those conversations,” she said, referring to debates between her grandfather and opposing uncles. She learned very early that, “even though I was a young girl, I had every right to a seat at the table as the grown men. Even though we would disagree … we would hug each other at the end of the night and say, ‘Love you, see you next week.’ I remember thinking to myself that that’s how public policy should be.” 

Finkenauer was a staunch opponent of an anti-union bill in the Iowa Legislature, HF 291, which limited the rights of public service workers to exercise collective bargaining. Now, most state employees in Iowa have a limited right to negotiate base wages — with no voice when it comes to grievance procedures, health benefits, occupational safety and other important workplace protections.

“What happened in the state of Iowa was so wrong and so cruel,” recalled Finkenauer. “I thought: This is not how we treat people in my state or in my country.” 

In Congress, Finkenauer supports the just-introduced Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, emphasizing how important it is to protect collective bargaining rights for the public sector, particularly as it relates to workplace safety.

McBride stressed the importance of getting support from elected officials like Finkenauer.

“To have you and others making your voices heard along with AFSCME members is crucial because lives are at stake,” McBride said.

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