ICAN History: 40 Years of Progress and Counting

ICAN – formerly the Iowa Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition (C/LEC) – was founded in 1979 by Ames energy consumer advocate John “Skip” Laitner and Sioux City social worker Tami O’Dell. The original groups reorganized as ICAN in 1983 in order to tackle a broader range of issues affecting all Iowans.

ICAN Today

  • ICAN is working to give a voice to small business owners, farmers and the self-employed through the Main Street Alliance of Iowa.  Since 2017 we have surveyed hundreds of business owners and are helping to amplify their voices with elected officials, the media and the public.
  • Working together with partners (Americans for Democratic Action, OneIowa and Progress Iowa), ICAN is shining a light on the federal judiciary and the need for diverse and fair judges on our courts.
  • Continuing to fight for ALL Iowans on a myriad of issues including: attacks on state workers; IPERS; The State Budget; The Federal Budget; Tax Reform; Education Funding/School Choice; Medicaid; Mental Health Services; Water Quality; Women’s Health Care; Medicare and Social Security and more.

Here are some highlights from the past 40 years:

  • Founded in 1979 as the Iowa Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition (C/LEC).
  • Reorganized as ICAN in 1983 in order to tackle a broader range of issues.
  • ICAN led the Health Care for America Now campaign in Iowa, which nationally was the largest health care reform coalition in American history, and played a lead role in the Iowa Affordable Health Care for All coalition.
  • Identified hundreds of small business owners around the fight for the Affordable Care Act – some of whom testified before Congress, spoke with their legislators, wrote letters to the editor and opinion essays, spoke at public events and gave main street tours.
  • With our partners, affiliates, and members, ICAN worked on an ambitious integrated plan to invest in Iowa and America’s future through investments in health care, education, and renewable energy.
  • Fought to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low income wage earners.
  • Helped to hold the line against anti-worker and anti-consumer legislation, including defeating deregulation of Iowa’s electric utility industry, preventing the elimination of project labor agreements, and stopping limits to worker compensation claims.
  • Worked with state and national partners to preserve Social Security from privatization.
  • Conducted civic engagement programs among traditionally underrepresented communities in Waterloo, Davenport, and Des Moines, registering and turning out over 13,000 new voters.
  • Led the effort to enact Election Day Registration in Iowa.
  • Worked with allies to pass legislation significantly expanding children’s health care access in Iowa.
  • Won reforms to Iowa election laws including banning corporate contributions and requiring PACs to file expenditure and disclosure reports.
  • Fought for the expansion of the federal SCHIP program to provide access to health care to children in low income families.
  • Passed the Energy Efficiency Act, which cut waste and saved Iowans millions of dollars on their gas and electric bills.
  • Put into place a moratorium on the construction of medical waste incinerators and continued to renew it throughout the decade.
  • Conducted program to get the Hy-Vee grocery store chain to stock organic or pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, generating over 1000 postcards to Hy-Vee; within a year, Hy-Vee began to stock organic produce state wide.
  • Stopped efforts to repeal Iowa’s Alternative Energy Production mandate and helped bring Iowa to the forefront of renewal energy development in the United States.
  • Worked with state and national allies to win an historic expansion of children’s health care, establishing the Hawk-I program in Iowa that provides health care for thousands of low-income Iowa children.
  • ICAN worked with other Iowa groups to raise awareness about the impact of federal budget cuts to needed programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and student loans as part of a national campaign coordinated through our partners at USAction. ICAN joined the national program to protect Social Security from the ravages of privatization with all it’s might: conducting numerous town hall meetings, protests, and rallies.
  • Helped close a major state tax loophole with the passage of the 1982 Windfall Oil Profits Tax Bill.
  • Won our fight for a winter shutoffs moratorium, banning shutoffs of utilities to low income Iowans during the winter months.
  • Authored and passed a bill in Iowa in 1985 restricting the dumping of toxic waste into landfills.
  • Worked with environmental and agricultural groups to pass Iowa’s Groundwater Protection Act.