Partnering with Labor Organizations

Dec 16, 2021

Doug Neumann

Collective bargaining has been in the news lately, especially the now-resolved contract between John Deere and its UAW employees. Given the importance of Deere – the company and its workers – to the Iowa economy, virtually everyone is pleased the two sides came to agreement. Less visible contract negotiations at local industries have been underway, too, challenged by the balance between rising labor costs, workforce shortages and numerous uncertainties of the business climate.

Those headlines might give some the mistaken impression that business and labor are always at odds, and that we’re not supposed to get along. That’s not been true at all in our world. The Economic Alliance enjoys a strong relationship with area labor organizations. The Economic Alliance is proud to have as members the Hawkeye Labor Council AFL/CIO, the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Building & Construction Trades Council, as well as several Locals.

We regularly work together, and we often share common views on economic growth and prosperity, community development, charitable causes and regional priorities. Certainly, there are times we disagree on a public policy issue or other topics. And when we do, we’ve generally let each other know why we’ve taken opposing positions and why we might see an issue differently. And we’re all better informed and maintain stronger relationships because of civil conversations about those disagreements.

The history of business-labor partnership in this area includes widespread community redevelopment after the 2008 flood, collaboration on the downtown hotel and convention center project, joint ampaigns for gambling referendums and infrastructure sales tax programs, support for federal infrastructure investment and more. This fall, the Economic Alliance and Hawkeye Labor Council co-hosted a forum for Cedar Rapids mayoral candidates, and then we did it again for the remaining two candidates in the runoff election. Questions asked at the forum focused on issues key to economic growth, attraction and retention of quality workers and our shared vision for the future. The Hawkeye Labor Council endorses candidates for office, while the Economic Alliance does not. But it’s been clear through the forum that we’re looking for many of the same leadership qualities in a new mayor.

Credit for the recent strength of this relationship also goes to Ron Corbett. Throughout a long and lauded Republican political career, Corbett always befriended Labor and tried to work with them as often as possible. Those relationships endure today, and Ron’s leadership of our economic development efforts here at the Economic Alliance lends great credibility to our work with organized labor.

To steal an oft-heard line, what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.


Doug Neumann Executive Director

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