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?