Meet Cathy Glasson: Populist Iowan Democrat Exploring A Run For Governor
Longtime nurse and union president, Cathy Glasson, is offering a clear vision of how bold, progressive policies can improve the lives of average Iowans. Glasson is exploring the run for governor in a swing state, which in 2016 voted in favor of Trump, but also Obama in 2008 and 2012.
In the following Q&A, Glasson talks universal health care, raising the minimum wage, and how she can improve the life of the average Iowan.
Q: Why are you considering a run for governor?
I’m exploring a run for Governor because I’m tired of watching working people in this state get beat up. The number one job of a Governor is to raise people’s standard of living. Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds have failed to do that, and I can’t sit back and watch it happen.
The facts on the ground are a lot different than the rosy picture Reynolds and the Republican legislature try to paint.
For nearly a third of our families, Iowa really isn’t working. 381,000 Iowa households are struggling to pay their bills because two-thirds of the jobs in our state pay less than $20 an hour. Parents working two and three low-wage jobs are still scrambling to come up with $900 each month for childcare, to pay the rent or mortgage, to put food on the table and gas in the car. If you have a health condition on top of that, good luck.
I’ve been traveling the state listening to people’s stories, and so many Iowans feel ignored by out-of-touch politicians. Working people in this state are fed up, and they should be. They can’t wait for half-measures — they needed help yesterday.
I believe it’s time to take bold, progressive steps to dramatically change the quality of life for more than a million Iowans:
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
- Make it easier for Iowa workers to join a union or employee association so they can give their families a better future.
- Fight for universal healthcare to cover every Iowan.
Q: How has your background as a union leader and nurse influenced your policy stances?
As a local union president and organizer, I’ve seen what happens when working people come together and demand a seat at the table. I’ve organized workers at multiple hospitals, and seen the impact on their lives when they can collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
The facts are clear: workers with unions make a better wage and have a better standard of living than workers without a union. I want more Iowans to have that. One of my top priorities as Governor will be to make it easier to join unions and employee associations so Iowa workers can fight for a better future. 184,000 public workers in Iowa had their union rights stripped away this year with the gutting of Chapter 20. It was a vicious attack on workers. I would fight to reverse that as Governor.
As an intensive care nurse, I’ve fought for healthcare reform for decades. I’ve seen what happens to people when they don’t have good coverage — they end up in intensive care with painful, dangerous, expensive conditions that could have been avoided. Medicaid privatization in Iowa has made things even worse for our healthcare system. We handed over control to profit-driven corporations, and now we’re wasting taxpayer dollars bribing them to stay in our state. As a nurse, I believe healthcare is a right and holding Iowans’ care hostage is wrong.
Since D.C. won’t act, states like Iowa should lead the way with our own universal healthcare system.
Q: In what ways do you plan to improve the average Iowan’s life should you become governor?
A $15 minimum wage will help ease thousands of Iowans off of public assistance because they’ll be able to afford their basic expenses. It will also pump millions of dollars into local economies because when low-wage workers get a raise, they spend that money right away in their communities — in grocery stores, restaurants, shops and gas stations. This means increased revenue for businesses, and more jobs to keep up with demand for goods and services.
Our public schools are struggling and it’s hurting our kids’ chances at getting ahead. New jobs in Iowa increasingly require education beyond high school, and college has become unaffordable for working-class and middle-class Iowans. We need to fully fund our public schools all the way from kindergarten through college and make them the top priority in our state budget. We need to make community college tuition free — it’s a small investment with a huge payoff. We should freeze tuition at our public universities, and help college students drowning in debt restructure their loans so they can make investments for their families, like buying a car or a home.
I believe clean water is the birthright of every Iowan. We have to work with farmers to keep chemicals and manure from entering our waterways, and then make polluters pay when they damage our water. Corporate agriculture is the only industry exempt from the Clean Water Act, so we need to hold them accountable at the state level. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for polluters’ willful negligence, and Iowans deserve access to clean drinking water, bottom line.
Q: How do you bring and involve disenfranchised voters into the political process?
We can only change Iowa if we listen to the voices of more Iowans. We need to reduce barriers to voting so no eligible Iowan is ignored.
First, we need to roll back the new voter ID law. It discriminates against the poor, the elderly, people with disabilities, people of color and college students. Instead of making it harder to vote, we need to expand early voting — add more locations and extend the hours so working people have a chance to participate. We should make it easier to vote by mail, instead of reducing the window for absentee voting. We should consider automatic voter registration, because Iowans that are eligible to vote should be able to, period. We also need to join the 47 other states where people with felony convictions who have served their time can get their voting rights restored.
The people in power want to make it harder for every Iowa voice to be heard. It’s time for bold, progressive changes to our voting laws to bring more Iowans into our democratic process.
Q: The working class and rural communities around Iowa aren’t doing great. How do you plan to help them?
As I talk with Iowans across the state, it’s clear to me that people all over are dealing with a lot of the same problems. So many Iowans are struggling to afford their basic expenses, whether they’re in rural Iowa, a city like Des Moines or a small town like Spencer where I grew up. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would have a huge impact all over the state.
People in too many rural communities have to drive absurd distances for medical care. A universal healthcare system would stop rural clinics from closing because the state would ensure providers get paid for services, a major failure of Governor Reynolds’ privatized Medicaid system.
In rural Iowa, public schools are consolidating. Kids have a long commute to school and underpaid teachers are buying the tools they need out of pocket. Adequate funding for public education would make a big difference for families in rural areas, and making the investment to create jobs in small towns would help keep these schools open by slowing population decline.
In our small communities, some of the best jobs available are in the public sector. We need to make sure those good jobs stick around by restoring public workers’ collective bargaining rights and putting more people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We need to invest in renewable energy in our state not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s a huge job creator, especially in rural Iowa.
In 2013, Iowa had a $927 million surplus & has now been turned into a $130 million deficit. As well, state workers recently had their collective bargaining rights stripped away. How would you address actions like these?
Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds blew the state’s surplus on giveaways, bonuses, credits and tax breaks for corporations. They paid off their corporate cronies and Iowa’s children, elderly, people with disabilities, patients and front-line workers paid the price. Branstad and Reynolds cut funding for K-12 schools, universities, mental healthcare, the judicial branch and social services, but left the sweetheart deals for CEOs.
We’re now at a point where these tax cuts, tax credits, special deals and exemptions are almost twice as much as the state’s general fund. Corporate tax giveaways cost Iowans $12 billion and the general fund budget is $7 billion. It’s corporate welfare on the backs of working people and it has to stop.
If we end these corporate tax giveaways and demand that profitable companies pay their fair share, we will have the resources to fully fund our public schools, make community college tuition-free, and expand mental health treatment including addressing the opiod crisis, which is spiraling out of control.
There’s a lot of other wasteful spending going on in Des Moines. The Governor and Legislature are bailing out Managed Care Organizations so they don’t pull out of privatized Medicaid. They are spending taxpayer dollars on new voter ID cards to address a nonexistent problem. And let’s not forget the legal fees Iowa taxpayers are covering as extremist laws that were recently passed are rightfully challenged in court.
We need leaders with the guts to make big changes in our state’s budget priorities because we’re headed in a dangerous direction.
(As for Collective Bargaining) Unions and employee associations provide a bridge to the middle class, but this Legislature and Governor decided that isn’t as important as taking care of their union-busting corporate donors with deep pockets. As Governor, I will fight to restore and strengthen Chapter 20 for public employees and use every opportunity I can to find new ways to help more working people across Iowa to join unions and employee associations. I’ll walk the picket line myself when I need to so that hardworking Iowans finally get the wages and the respect they deserve.
For more on Glasson, visit CathyGlasson.com.