SHELL ROCK — Union and Democratic activists picketed the home of Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix Saturday to protest what they called his anti-family and anti-worker agenda.
About 100 protesters carrying signs and banging drums marched on the snow-packed sidewalk and street in front of Dix’s family home for nearly an hour.
Local law enforcement agencies barricaded the street. A few neighbors watched from a nearby deck as protesters gave speeches and chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Bill Dix has got to go.”
“I think having a hundred people in front of Bill Dix’s house on a five-degree day is a sign that people have had enough of Bill Dix,” said Jesse Case, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 238, which organized the event.
“We have people that carpooled locally,” he said. “We have people that drove from Des Moines, southern Iowa, Quad Cities and Cedar Rapids.”
The Teamsters were supported by Butler County Democrats, who hosted a chili dinner at the nearby Boyd Community Center and planned to distribute fliers around the community later in the day.
Those at the protest criticized the Republican legislative agenda, which they called harmful to working families, veterans, education, health care and seniors.
“Stop the attack on Iowa families,” Case said. “It’s not acceptable to attack our veterans, our teachers. He’s cut funding for nursing home inspections. He’s cut funding for child abuse and elderly abuse.”
Many also voiced criticism of Dix due to a $1.75 million settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Kirsten Anderson, who was fired as the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus communications director in 2013 after lodging a sexual harassment complaint against the Senate GOP caucus, which Dix leads.
Anderson attended the protest and spoke out against Dix and the GOP leadership.
“We’re tired, we’re fed up, we’re mad, we’re embarrassed at this so-called leadership in our state,” Anderson said. “(Dix) has taken a retaliatory approach for years. I reported four times. The fourth time I was shoved out the door.”
Dan MacDonald, an Army veteran, blamed the GOP for cutting veterans benefits, adding that more than 36,000 military veterans work in public sector jobs that saw their bargaining rights cut in the last legislative session. He said cuts to mental health care are also harmful to veterans.
Toby Paone, a member of the Iowa State Education Association who traveled from Davenport to picket, said the GOP was turning Iowa in to a “Third World state.”
“The agenda Bill Dix and the majority party have in Des Moines is wrong for Iowans,” Paone said. “All they do cut, cut, cut. They cut schools, they’ve cut hospitals, they’ve cut nursing programs. We need to turn that around.”
Dix was not at home during the picket and could not be reached immediately for comment. He previously told the Des Moines Register residents have a right to protest.
But Republicans of Black Hawk County issued a statement saying they were “outraged” by the unusual step of protesting at a lawmaker’s private home.
“If you disagree with Sen. Dix or his policies or actions that is fine,” the group said. “Call his office, make an appointment at his office, send him an email or even visit him at the Statehouse. However, to bus people in from who knows where and to go to someone’s home and protest/picket outside their front door is beyond the pale.”
Dave Mansheim, chairman of the Butler County Democrats, said he felt the local protest was appropriate, suggesting many of neighbors in Shell Rock aren’t always hearing the truth about what Dix is doing in Des Moines.
“They don’t know that he’s voting against their interests,” Mansheim said. “Bill Dix’s agenda in Des Moines is not pro-working family.
“They have taken away rights of collective bargaining for employees. They have actually reduced the minimum wage for about 60,000 people. They’ve reduced Medicaid. They’re not supporting education.”