Iowa Senate Democratic Candidates speak on workers’ rights


KCCI hosted a virtual senate Democratic primary forum May 19 with the four Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate. 

Amber Mohmand

Iowa Senate Democratic Candidates argued for the worker during a KCCI virtual forum. 

KCCI hosted a virtual senate Democratic primary forum Tuesday night with the four Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate. 

The candidates who participated in the forum were: Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, Theresa Greenfield and Eddie Mauro. The candidates joined the forum through Zoom.

Candidates were allowed opening and closing statements and were given one minute to answer questions and the opportunity to respond when mentioned by another candidate.

The candidates were asked what the role Congress should have during the pandemic — how to ensure food is available and produced in safe and sanitary conditions during the pandemic and what advice they should give to Gov. Kim Reynolds.  

“For me, every part of the supply chain is important and it starts with protecting our workers,” Greenfield said. “[…] I think we need to focus on protecting the health and safety of our essential workers and make sure they have the essential protection they need.” 

Greenfield said COVID-19 has also shined a light on paid sick leave and how workers find a challenge between going to work sick or staying home. 

Ron Steele, moderator during the virtual debate, asked the candidates how would the advice they give Reynolds, as junior U.S. Senator, differ from the action she has already taken so far. 

Franken said he would provide accommodations to the essential workers around the population and provide accessible testing. 

Mauro said Iowa needs to provide a broader testing system and be transparent about the pandemic and protect essential workers. 

“We’ve got to protect workers, first and foremost, before we protect big ag or big industry, and it seems as what we’re doing right now [is] spending too much time coddling too big ag and big industry and not taking care of the frontline worker,” Mauro said.  

Matt Breen, a moderator for the virtual debate, asked if the candidates supported the Hero’s Act, which was a $3 trillion aid package that directed money toward state and local government, households and health care workers. 

All four of the candidates said they did not support the act as it stands. 

“We also need to provide much more help for truly small businesses, I’m talking to mom and pop businesses on the square in our rural communities,” Graham said. “We haven’t done that in the stimulus bills at all. So we need to focus on the majority and not the small minority of wealthy in this country and these stimulus bills.”

Franken said he does support the efforts of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Stacey Horst, a moderator for the virtual debate, asked how the candidates would encourage companies to support the paid sick leave policy.

Greenfield said paid sick leave is an important part of strong business and making sure they are equipped to do their best. Greenfield said she would encourage companies to look at the benefits of paid sick leave. 

Mauro said he supports paid sick leave and making sure the workers don’t fall behind. 

Franken and Graham said paid sick leave should be defined on the federal level. 

“We are one of the only, perhaps the only, developed nation that does not provide paid sick leave for all workers, it absolutely needs to be a federal mandate,” Graham said. “This cannot be something that is left up to the whims of particular corporations.”