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Movement Building: Iowa CWAers Join Community Group to Fight Corporate Polluters

Iowa CWA leaders and activists joined members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) for workshops and discussions at the CCI annual convention, then capped things off with a direct action protest at the governor’s mansion.

Iowa CWA leaders and activists joined members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) for workshops and discussions at the CCI annual convention, then capped things off with a direct action protest at the governor's mansion.

"Whose House? Our House!" and "Put People First!" were the chants as 300 protesters, including about a dozen Iowa CWAers, marched up Terrace Hill to take over the grounds of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's (R) mansion. The goal: to install a mini factory farm that focuses attention on Branstad's support for corporate agriculture over family farmers.

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Hugh Espey, Iowa CCI (right) and Steve Abbott, CWA Iowa State Council, at the Iowa governor's mansion where they are protesting the governor's support for big agriculture at the expense of family farmers and the state's clean water.

Below: Iowa CWA leaders and activists attended the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) annual convention last week, topping it off with a protest march to the governor's mansion.

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They brought a giant display of cardboard "factory farms", a "river", and "manure spills", along with big signs that read "They Dump It. You Drink It"; "We Won't Stop 'Til They Clean It Up"; "Governor Branstad, Sign the Pledge. We Want A Governor Who Will Clean It Up."

The protesters want Branstad to support local control of factory farm siting and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force factory farms to obtain federal permits with tougher environmental standards or get shut down with a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

The marchers – including family farmers, retired teachers, church pastors, students, and others – demanded that Branstad start cracking down on factory farm manure pollution. Iowa's more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year. That means more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and more than 630 currently polluted Iowa waterways.

Iowa now ranks 49th in the nation in water quality, Hugh Espey, CCI executive director, said. "We just want our governor to work with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency on rules to clean up our water," he added.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was keynote speaker at the July 12 CCI convention and CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson held some sessions on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Also on hand was Steve Abbott, president of Local CWA 7108 and the CWA Iowa State Council and Iowa LPAT Coordinator.

"We are in a movement moment and we need to seize the moment," Ellison told CWAers and CCI members at the convention. "It is time for everyday people to stand up and demand that our government stand up for real people."

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people's action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters. As part of our union's movement building initiative around the nation, CWAers have been partnering with allies in labor, the environment and civil rights, including community groups such as CCI, for social, economic and environmental justice.

At the workshops, Larson told participants that Congressional passage of TPP would mean that, even if Iowans successfully got the state to stand up to Corporate Agriculture and got their water cleaned up, the new rules could be nullified under the trade law and the firms could sue them to reclaim profits.

CCI's Espey praised the alliance with CWA, which he says has brought a power base of 4,000 more people and a knowledge base that better prepares them for the fight ahead.

"This week, we are talking about TPP, which we wouldn't have been talking about otherwise," Espey said. "CWA is all about building power for regular, ordinary, everyday people and you don't see that all the time."