Iowa at Work

On Mondays in July Iowa Public Radio’s talk show team examines some of the most pressing work and employment issues Iowans face. Tune in at 10 am and 12 noon and join the conversation.

Flickr / Steve

A new study from Iowa State University finds that people who are the victims of workplace bullying often receive unhelpful advice about how to deal with the harassment.

ISU communication studies researcher Stacy Tye-Williams found the most frequent piece of advice victims receive from family and friends is to quit their jobs, which is financially impractical. People were also often counseled to ignore or to stand up to the bully. 

WIKICOMMONS / Anatomy of the Human Body

A new law limits the amount of compensation an Iowa worker can receive for a shoulder injury.  Critics say the change makes workers disposable, but proponents point out that the law also provides tuition so injured employees can retrain for new careers.

 

In January, 2016, 51-year-old Bill Bennett of Pleasantville fell at work and tore the rotator cuff on his right shoulder. The injury makes his dominant right arm useless for movements as basic as pouring a cup of coffee.

Flickr / Richard D Green

Legislation that limits the amount an injured employee can be compensated has passed the Iowa House along party lines. Republicans say changes to Iowa’s more than century-old workers’ compensation law are needed to keep the state's business climate competitive.

"I believe it’s a situation where we’re seeing rates go up across industry sectors," says GOP Representative Gary Carlson of Muscatine. "If I look at where Iowa used to be at the fifth or sixth lowest in the United States, and now we’re up in the 24th highest."

Flickr / Vance Shtraikh

Legislation that allows private companies in Iowa to test employees’ hair for drug use has passed out of the House Labor Committee along party lines with Republican support. 

"This is about testing for chronic long-term use," says Representative Jarad Klein of Washington County. "Is there a chronic long-term history of abuse of an illegal substance that would give them pause?"

Democrats raise concerns regarding the fairness and the efficacy of testing.

ReSurge International / Flickr

Chuck Wheeler felt sick going to work. Literally sick. 

"The last four, five years, I'd drive to work. And I'd start out okay, but the closer I'd get to work, I'd get a terrible stomachache, and by the time I pulled into my parking spot...I'm not going to say it was unbearable, but it was really irritating to have a stomachache every day when you're going into work. It seemed to never go away."

Dan DeLuca / Flickr

Iowa has the highest rate of worker fatalities and injuries in the Midwest.

Kathy Leinenkugel, of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says this is due to several factors, including the fact that Iowa has an aging workforce where many people are self-employed.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The high-tech industry is not known for its diverse workforce. The field is made up of fewer than 25 percent women. At major tech companies in Silicon Valley, the numbers of blacks and Latinos hover between two-and-three percent. The Technology Association of Iowa is hoping to develop ways to attract more minorities to the I-T field. 

Tony Kioko is accustomed to walking into a session at a technology conference and seeing no one who looks like him.

“I’ve had several instances where I’m the only African-American in the room,” he says.

Lindsey Moon

On average across the United States, women make around 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Iowa, that means the average woman can expect to make around ten thousand dollars less than her male counterpart, according to research by the Iowa Office of Workforce Development. 

That gap is even more drastic for minority women. African American women can expect to make 61 cents for every dollar a man makes, and Latinas make 58 cents on every dollar. 

TechShop / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Iowa's unemployment rate of 3.8% reflects nearly full employment across the state. But there are many industries that need workers, and that demand is reflected in the Iowa Hot Jobs report. Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development and the State Labor Market Information Administrator, Ed Wallace says jobs in the biosciences, health care, education, and agriculture continue to grow. The challenge lies in making sure those looking for work know which jobs are in most demand.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

If you would have told Naomi Gallmeyer when she was a little girl that she’d grow up to be a plumber, she says she probably wouldn’t have believed you, but that’s exactly what happened. 

Photo by Amy Mayer

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Education and landing a job are inextricably linked in the minds of most Americans, but after the Great Recession it wasn't as clear whether getting a college diploma meant getting, and keeping, a job.

Saba Ali, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Iowa, says that while statistics bear out the correlation between college degrees and higher paying employment, the question of whether college prepares students to do their jobs well is more nuanced.

Kamyar Adl / Flickr

The age of 65 was a milestone that many workers used to look forward to—the promise of retirement, leisure time, and a guaranteed pension.   But the last couple of decades have brought change: most companies don’t provide pensions, employees must make their own investment choices concerning their 401K (if they are lucky enough to even have one), and simply dropping out of the work force at 65 isn’t an option.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

  The future of Iowa’s economy is front-and-center this summer during a series of week-long camps for young entrepreneurs. Middle school students polish their elevator pitches and sell their newly designed products at the weekly Farmers Market in the Valley Junction shopping area of West Des Moines. Twelve-year-old Logan Kempf shows her handmade jewelry to a potential customer.

“Those will then be put into a bracelet or a necklace with the wire and the clippers and it will be customized just for you,” she explains.

David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Democrats in Iowa are calling for an increase, and in Washington, Democratic lawmakers would like to see the federal minimum wage raised to $12 by 2020.

On this edition of River to River we kick off our summer jobs series, Iowa At Work, by talking with Iowans trying to make ends meet on low wages.

Iowa Public Radio

Last year in Iowa the foodservice sector added 2,600 jobs. It’s projected the state will see an additional 12,300 new food service jobs in the coming decade, according to a forecast released recently by the National Restaurant Association.

One in three Iowans found their first job in the restaurant industry according to the Iowa Restaurant Association, and during this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe gets a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a standard of excellent service in a restaurant.