The working middle class is under attack.
The Labor Movement in Missouri, Illinois and the nation is under attack.
American democracy is under attack.
The Free Press is under attack.
The institutions that protect our way of living: clean air, clean water, laws against predatory lending practices that screw working people, etc., etc. are under attack.
On the other hand, if you’re a wealthy family with a huge stock portfolio and a generous bonus plan from your company, you’re in great shape, and if all that’s proposed by the Trump Administration for the wealthy comes to pass, you’re in hog heaven!
This is what we at the Labor Tribune are confronted with every day as next week we begin our 81st year of publishing the nation’s most comprehensive, aggressive, award-winning Labor newspaper, one of the few weeklies left in America.
WE ARE OPTIMISTIC
And yet we are optimistic about the future.
Why? Because in our region we are the ONE voice of working people that, week in and week out, is fighting for you, our readers, the hard working, real Americans who built this nation into what it is today. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.
Where would you find news that impacts your daily life, news of real value to working men and women in our union families if it wasn’t for the Labor Tribune? NOWHERE!
ONLY IN THE LABOR TRIBUNE
Just look at just some of the recent news in our columns:
• Exposing the lies behind the phony “right-to-work” mailers flooding voters’ homes.
• Detailing the political storm facing Illinois workers in next year’s state and national elections.
• Revealing that a phony charge made against a local union to promote RTW in a Post-Dispatch OpEd was a 12-year old fraud from a questionable anti-union contractor.
• Detailing the racist origins of the phony RTW.
• Exposing Gov. Greitens as the political coward he is for killing wages for 35,000 workers, weakening discrimination laws, and pushing the anti-worker efforts demanded by his dark money funders.
• Clearing up the true intent of the state photo ID law as an effort to deny voting rights.
• Revealing administration efforts to weaken overtime rules.
• Outlining the terrible impact of the proposed new health care law.
• Detailing efforts to staff NLRB with union-busters.
• Highlighting legal challenges across America to the phony RTW law.
• Revealing the truth: An Indiana Republican admitting prevailing wage repeal didn’t save the state money.
• Trashing of labor law and workers’ rights by Republicans.
And so much more.
PROMOTING YOUR STORIES
In addition, the strongest role the Labor Tribune plays is telling the positive side of what our unions are doing, for their members and for the communities in which we live. NOWHERE else do you find such stories as:
• IBEW 1, Electrical Connection’s support of “Shop with a Cop” and flood repairs to equine therapy center.
• UFCW 655’s BBQ to raise funds for Sickle Cell research and many other charitable efforts.
• Plumbers and Pipefitters 562 female member promoting trades careers for women; the local winning a national softball division championship.
• Bricklayers 1, IBEW 1 and others bannering non-union contractors to protect jobs.
• Laborers’ and others’ donations to the Arnold Food pantry; raising money for the police welfare association.
• Plumbers and Pipefitters 101’s national apprentice finalist.
• Helping raise money for out-of-work families via “$5 for the Fight.”
• Madison County Federation of Labor awarding scholarships.
• Missouri Women in Trades training programs for female construction workers.
• Sprinkler Fitters 268 members saving carpenter’s life.
• IBEW 4’s positive billboard ad campaign.
• Steamfitters 439’s fundraising for fire safety camp.
• CWA 6300’s and others’ efforts to gather signatures for RTW repeal.
And so, so much more.
Even with today’s iPhone news feeds, working families are overlooked. First, they don’t get a fair shake. Second, the positive issues and efforts of our unions for their members and community are never told. Finally, Labor news is almost universally ignored.
Brothers and Sisters, information is vital to our survival, both as a Labor Movement and as a Democracy. Providing you with that information from a workers’ viewpoint is the role the Labor Tribune plays, with gusto!
That’s why we are optimistic about the future. The need to get Labor’s story out is more pressing today than ever.
Our heartfelt THANK YOU to our union subscribers and members for your continuing support. As we enter our 81st year, we pledge to continue to be an aggressive, fearless voice for you! COUNT ON IT.
P.S. If you’re reading this and are not a subscriber, you should be! We’re YOUR newspaper. We need your support.
• Drive down workers’ wages, safe working conditions and ultimately their benefits with the passage of the phony, anti-worker “right-to-work” law.
• Keep local governments from demanding quality construction from local construction companies hiring local, skilled tradespeople by prohibiting Project Labor Agreements. This will further drive down wages because low-paying companies from the South will now flock to Missouri with incredibly low bids based on the fact they pay their workers next to nothing.
• Further intrude into local government by telling the City of St. Louis they can’t raise the minimum wage for 35,000 underpaid workers, as they had already done, forcing the city to roll back the increase on Aug. 28 – cutting the wages workers are already receiving – and blocking a similar increase in Kansas City.
• Force the City of St. Louis to roll back part of an anti-discrimination ordinance that keeps employers and landlords from denying a woman a job or evicting her because of her reproductive health decision. A bill passed in the Senate and modified in the House would prevent the law from being enforced against pregnancy resource centers that discourage women from having abortions.
WORST YET TO COME?
And while the list goes on, there’s one that I’m sure will come up soon: the Republicans in the Missouri Legislature will want to change our U.S. Constitution. OMG!
And they will probably try to do it with a proposed resolution created and promoted by none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the cabal of right-wing big businessmen whose intent, a Wisconsin legislator pointed out, is clear: “To them, government is not about the people, but the most powerful doing what they want, when they want, and to whom they want.”
IT’S WITHIN THEIR REACH
As of July 20, 28 states of the needed 34 have passed this resolution to hold a Constitution Convention (read: attack the U.S. Constitution and legalize once and for all their right-wing, anti-worker interests).
And here’s the kicker: once there is a convention, EVERYTHING is on the table. Nothing is sacred.
A document that has led our nation to greatness since the first national Constitution Convention in 1787 will be open to savage attack by right-wing ideologues whose only concern is what’s best for them and their big business bottom lines, not the working class “scum” they perceive the rest of us to be.
SAVING GRACE – MAYBE
The only potential saving grace: should a convention be convened, their dirty work will need the agreement of three-fourths of all the states – 38.
Given that the Republicans now control both chambers in 32 states and the governorship in 25 of them, the 38 it would take to ratify the changes is within reach. Especially since ALEC’s backers, notably the Koch Brothers, would be willing to spend whatever it takes on TV, social media, direct mail, etc. –– and of course lining the campaign coffers of any reticent legislators — to get it passed.
AND WHERE WILL COWARD GREITENS BE?
And don’t think our Governor Eric Greitens, the political coward that he is, won’t sign off. He will. His big money backers will pull his strings and he’ll sign without a whimper.
Be forewarned. It will come.
And who will be hurt the most? The very working people, including our own union members, who voted for this political coward and the other self-centered R’s who are attending the ALEC conference (July 19-21) in Denver.
Wonder who is there from Missouri?
P.S. Let me make it clear, this condemnation does not include all Missouri Republicans. There are some – although too few – who are in Jefferson City to do what’s right by ALL Missourians, not just the rich and powerful. But that’s a small group. We salute them for their integrity – and strength of character – to stand up to what must be awful pressures when key anti-worker issues come to a vote.
I recently visited with my daughter and her family and my brother who live in the Dallas suburbs of Plano and Frisco, Texas. An article in the May 14 issue of The Dallas Morning News that proclaimed the opening of Toyota’s new billion-dollar American headquarters in Plano intrigued me.
“Right-to-work” Texas did it again, I thought as I read the headline “An alliance of driving forces: Toyota opens doors to new Plano home.” And so, with trepidation, I read the article.
And then I got the shock of my life.
Of all the company and local leaders who talked about the many reasons Plano was selected over 25 other final sites, not one mentioned ANYTHING about it being a so-called “right-to-work” state!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
What? After all, the Republicans here have told us over and over again that RTW was the key factor in attracting new plants and thus new jobs.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs” was the Republican mantra as they rushed passing RTW as their first piece of legislation in the last session. And Gov. Eric parroted that: “Today right-to-work sends a very clear message … Missouri is open for business.”
WOW, ARE THEY WRONG
I urge the governor and his Republican cohorts to read the Dallas Morning News article because it has some keen insights:
• North Caroline offered Toyota $100 million in incentives. Texas only $46 million.
Incentives “weren’t make-or-break factors,” said Toyota North American CEO Jim Lentz.
Notes a subhead in the article, “Cost wasn’t clincher.” Really, what then caused Toyota to bring a $1 billion American headquarters here?
• Says the local Chamber of Commerce’s point person for the project: “They wanted to know about schools and demographics. They wanted to tour neighborhoods and know about potential job opportunities for spouses… they needed to convince Toyota employees that North Texas is a place where they could put own roots.”
• The commercial real estate rep who handled the deal: “…companies looking to move are increasingly prioritizing quality-of-life factors over cheaper office space.”
• Plano’s economic development director: Toyota “has said repeatedly, values diversity and inclusivity.”
• Plano’s mayor noted Plano’s equal rights ordinance passed in 2014 that bars discrimination against LGBT people. That diversity, couples with the city’s proximity to Dallas museums and theaters, and… sports teams, made Plano stand out.
• Added the mayor: “Companies want to come here because it’s safe, the schools are great and the third component is quality of life.
WHAT, NO RTW AS A KEY?!
In the article, at least 5,000 words long covering one-and-a-half full newspaper pages, not a single word about the phony “right-to-work” as even a consideration!
And as we’ve pointed out in many articles, in Site Selection Magazine surveys RTW is not even in the top 15 reasons site selection experts cite as reasons for recommending company locations.
RTW is simply a way to reduce the ability of unions to fight for workers’ rights, workers’ wages, and workers’ benefits. Weak unions = larger company bottom lines and fatter CEO salaries and bonuses.
Gov. Eric, the political coward he is, didn’t take Missouri workers into consideration when he signed RTW, he looked to the fat donations his corporate handlers will give him as he tries to move up the political ladder to run for Donald Trump’s job.
And so, Missouri, we’ve been bamboozled yet again!
The man who professes to want to change the culture in Jefferson City, and has frankly made no concrete gestures at doing that, has turned his back on more than tens of thousands of Missouri working families, union and non-union alike, without as much as a real conversation about why he might not want to do that.
A few clear-cut examples:
ON PROTECTING YOUR JOB
Despite many efforts of the Missouri top AFL-CIO labor leadership to meet with the new governor to discuss the “workers’ side” of the so-called “right-to-work” issue, Governor Eric simply refused to meet before he signed this terrible anti-worker law! He did send a staffer to meet after the bill was passed, but it was only a perfunctory gesture. The Missouri AFL-CIO represents more than a quarter of a million Missouri workers and the governor wouldn’t meet with its leadership to hear the workers’ view on how RTW will hurt all workers as well as the state’s economy the governor professes to want to move forward.
ON CLEANING THE SWAMP
During his campaign, he pledged to clean up Jefferson City, which he called a “corrupt, do-nothing embarrassment.” And where has that gone?
• Ethics legislation has stalled on the simplest of cleanups: banning lobbyists’ gifts (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars last year for trips, dinners, gifts, etc.) and preventing departing legislators from becoming lobbyists for at least two years. No action! Gov. Eric has been pretty silent on pushing these issues.
• But wait, legislators are pointing the finger back at the governor telling him to first look in the mirror. His campaign created a new secret dark money nonprofit group — A New Missouri, Inc. run by his senior advisor — that has accepted almost $2 million and refused to disclosure the donors. And it was revealed last week that this nonprofit has been lobbying for legislation, but isn’t registered to lobby as required by law. Want to guess who ponied up? Gov. Eric won’t even talk about it!
ON EARNING A DECENT WAGE
With St. Louis and Kansas City now requiring employers to pay a more reasonable minimum wage (it’s still not a livable wage, but better than before), and the new wages now in paychecks helping pull workers a bit more out of poverty, the Republicans stepped in to ban cities from making that decision. The legislation is sitting on Gov. Eric’s desk waiting for his signature. I’m betting on him signing it, impacting 69,000 workers in St. Louis alone who will see their wages decline. The loss will be staggering. An estimated $29 million additional dollars are expected to flow into workers’ pockets in the city between the May 5 start of the increase and Aug. 28 when the rollback, if the Governor signs it, is slated to take effect.
ON KEEPING THE PUBLIC IN THE DARK
Gov. Eric has not held an open question-and-answer news conference since taking office Jan. 9! He even had a lock installed on his spokesman’s office to limit reporter access. Can’t have those pesky reporters asking “why?”
Lobbyists and corporations paid for Gov. Eric’s inaugural ball, costing who knows how many millions, but he won’t provide an accounting of who paid how much.
And while he’s saving the state a few shekels by not using the state’s airplane for trips, he is using private corporate airplanes provided by “donors.” Again, no public accounting of whose buying influence with Gov. Eric. Five trips to Washington, D.C. and a visit to a Trump-owned resort have been among his destinations.
LACK OF POLITICAL COURAGE
Why all the secrecy and kowtowing to the corporations and the rich?
Gov. Eric wants to be president of the United States. He’s already locked up his “Greitens for President” campaign committee name.
That means he’ll need lots of money.
It’s clear by his actions Gov. Eric doesn’t have the political courage to turn his back on his multimillionaire, anti-worker dark-money funders who someday will be called on to fund his presidential campaign.
So, despite his campaign rhetoric to work for Missouri’s workers, he’s really working for, and kissing the asses of, the companies and wealthy individuals that will fuel his personal political ambitions.
Tragically, it also means that St. Louis and Kansas City minimum wage workers are going to lose their new-found wages, that real ethics reform will never get passed, that Gov. Eric will never fight for you and I, the families of Missouri who can’t fund his political ego.
We thought a Navy SEAL would have the courage to stand up for what’s right. “To serve with Honor and Integrity on and off the battlefield” is part of the Navy SEAL’s code.
Not having the courage to first meet with the top Missouri AFL-CIO leaders on RTW and other pieces of anti-worker legislation and then not vetoing the RTW bill when it came to him, not vetoing the minimum wage destruction bill that will take family-feeding monies from already underpaid workers, and not being honest about who is funding his ambitions, defiles the SEAL’s code of honor.
In the end, by not standing up for workers, a great many of whom supported him and will now be hurt by him, is nothing less than political cowardice.
BUT ERIC, IT’S NOT OVER YET
As sad as Missouri politics is today, the fight’s not over.
A strong Citizens Initiative Petition signature gathering campaign underway hopefully will put the RTW issue to a public vote in 2018. If you haven’t signed yet, check you Labor Tribune for dates and locations (see Page ???)
Getting enough signatures on the petition to force the statewide vote will send a strong message to our opportunistic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature:
“We’re fed up and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
With the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a sensitive investigation into Russian meddling in our Democratic elections, and who was willing to let the investigation go where leads take it, our resident president attempted to pull yet another “Hey Squirrel!” distraction: justifying Comey’s firing by citing his bungling of the Clinton email investigation.
What a master stroke, he must have thought!
Democrats would certainly get behind that. After all, Comey’s eleventh hour announcement that he was reopening the email investigation in October of last year – something that then candidate Donald Trump praised at the time – may well have cost Clinton the election.
The problem is, this time, nobody was buying the resident president’s “Hey Squirrel!” explanation.
Trump seemed to realize this and, later in the week, said he had decided to fire Comey because he was a “showboat.”
Frankly, I believe there is another sinister reason for Comey’s firing: it’s a brazen attempt to shut down the Russia investigation and send a message to his successor: “Don’t get too close to the truth or you’ll be fired, too.”
LOOK AT THE ‘HEY SQUIRREL!’ RECORD
Look at the resident president’s record:
• YATES: When former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House counsel that then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had not told the truth about his meeting with the Russian ambassador and was vulnerable to blackmail, Trump fired Yates for refusing to defend his first executive order on immigration. “Hey Squirrel!” the media’s attention shifts to Yates’ firing over the Muslim ban.
• WIRETAPPING: The resident president claims that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower. Another “Hey Squirrel!” moment just as the Russian meddling investigation was beginning to gain some traction; the investigation fades into the background.
• BHARARA: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office had several ongoing investigations, including one of Fox News, other Trump friends and the Trump Tower “wiretapping,” was fired along with 45 other federal prosecutors. “Hey Squirrel! Media attention now focuses on the wholesale firings, obscuring the fact that Bharara had authority over Trump Tower.
• NUNES: Shortly after Comey’s candid testimony before California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes’ House Intelligence Committee about the then budding Russian investigation, Nunes is invited to the White House to view “secret documents” and briefed the resident president before talking with his committee. “Hey Squirrel!” attention shifts to Nunes’ lack “impartiality” and calls for his recusal.
• VOTER FRAUD: The latest “Hey Squirrel!” distraction (at least at press time Monday) is the resident president’s new executive order calling for an investigation into the “massive voter fraud of millions” he continues to say cost him the popular vote, a charge already disproved over and over again. This “Hey Squirrel!” effort is doomed to fail as the Comey fiasco will continue until there’s a final impartial investigation.
DO REPUBLICANS WANT TRUTH?
We’re about to find out if the Republican-controlled House and Senate really want to get to the bottom of this Russian crisis or not. Will they agree that an independent special prosecutor, or even an independent bi-partisan commission, be established to let the chips fall where they may?
If they don’t, then we’ll know there’s a massive cover-up by the Republicans to protect their resident president – and by extension, their legislative agenda – even though they must know in their hearts he’s a real threat to our Democracy… and the world order.
When will the congressional Republican leadership get up the courage to do what’s best for America and not partisan politics?
Give him credit; our resident president is the “Hey Squirrel!” master. He’ll undoubtedly come up with more “Hey Squirrel!” distractions.
The question is: How long are we going to put up with it?