Coverage by The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, September 1, 2016:
As we celebrate Labor Day, all Iowans and Americans should remember the thousands of laborers throughout America’s history who have fought and sacrificed for the benefits most of us take for granted. Their sacrifices included the use of civil disobedience and non-violent protest that required great courage and often came at great personal expense.
There are many examples of labor’s embrace of nonviolent action, including the use of sit-down strikes organized by the Industrial Workers of the World and the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ free-speech confrontations. These peaceful strategies were instrumental in the passage of child labor laws, improved working conditions and establishment of the 40-hour work week.
Both Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Bold Iowa are strong supporters of the rights of workers. As a state lawmaker, Ed Fallon stood with workers on picket lines dozens of times, and over the course of 14 years in the Legislature, accrued an 88 percent pro-labor voting record. Iowa CCI fights for low-wage workers victimized by wage theft and has been a leader statewide in the “Fight for $15” movement.
So, it was discouraging to read Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building Trades, disparage our organizations and our fight to defend working farmers, landowners and the environment we all share against the Bakken oil pipeline. [North Dakota lawlessness threatens to spill into Iowa, Aug. 31.]
For Gerhard to imply that alleged isolated incidents of violence (and yes, they are only alleged, not documented) by pipeline opponents in North Dakota suggests that violence will “come to Iowa” is unfair and illogical.
Spreading rumors and misinformation like this only helps to divide our movements and distract from our shared struggle against corporate control of our labor system, food supply and environment.
Both our organizations are firmly committed to direct action that is 100 percent peaceful and nonviolent. We take our inspiration from the 1960s civil rights struggle, the women’s suffrage movement, and yes, the labor movement itself.
If detractors want to review the most recent example of our strong commitment to peaceful nonviolence, just look at the mass action we organized against the Bakken pipeline this past Wednesday. More than 100 people participated in that action, and 30 were arrested. Law enforcement members of both the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa State Patrol repeatedly commented on how cooperative, well-behaved, and yes, peaceful were all participants.
Again, both personally and through our respective organizations, we stand with labor in the fight to bring renewable-energy jobs that provide long-term, good paying jobs to Iowa, jobs that don’t tear up Iowa’s farmland, threaten our water and climate, and trample the private-property rights of rural landowners.