Justin Shields is a local labor force sufficiently potent that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004, came to Cedar Rapids in 2005 to campaign for Shields in his successful run for a City Council seat.
Last night, Shields confirmed reports that had surfaced during the day: The Hawkeye Labor Council, a coalition of 45 unions in Linn and six other counties, picked someone other than Shields to be its president.
After last night’s council meeting, Shields said the Labor Council vote was straightforward. He said he was nominated to continue as president, Jerry Nowadzky, a member of the Machinists union, also was nominated, and Nowadzky won.
Shields said he had been president of the Hawkeye Labor Council for 10 years, maybe 11 years.
Being out of the labor post, he said, won’t change his devotion to labor.
“Right now I’m no officer, but I will remain very active in union, union politics, union affairs,” Shields said. “It’s been my whole life, dedicated to working people in Iowa, and I will definitely be part of things.
“I would never turn my back on the labor movement in this country. I’ve been part of it for years, and I’m going to be remaining part of it.”
Last February, the HawkeyeLabor Council suspended its executive director, Alan Bernard, and Shields said at the time that the Labor Council was looking into financial issues. Bernard, who often had been at Shields’ side, never returned to the post.
Last night, Shields said he didn’t think the Bernard matter had anything to do with his defeat at the Labor Council’s election this week.
Shields, a retired former Quaker employee, has used the post at the Hawkeye Labor Council to raise the profile of labor in city government and in the community. Of late, it has not been uncommon to find the Hawkeye Labor Council and the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce endorsing similar candidates for local elected office and joining forces to support the same community initiatives.