By SHERI GASSAWAY
With so-called “right-to-work” recently signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens, the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) decided to make efforts to overturn the new law the timely subject of this year’s Women’s History Brunch.
About 250 people attended the March 18 event at the CWA Local 6300 Union Hall in Maryland Heights. Guests received an update on the status of the Citizens Referendum petition to take the law to a public vote, an overview of other anti-worker bills making the rounds in the state legislature and several calls to action.
To set the stage on the ugly origin of “right-to-work,” cast members of the Workers Opera from Bread & Roses Missouri presented a skit called “Right-to-work: Exposed.” It focused on Vance Muse, a Texas businessman who is credited with inventing the “right-to-work” movement in the 1940s and who helped pass the first anti-union laws in Texas.
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR WEAPON
The presentation included harsh words from Vance, who used racial stereotypes and slurs to gain support for spreading “right-to-work” throughout several states, and a lot of pushing and shoving from the other cast members representing the resilience of the men and women of Labor. The conclusion was that then and now, union members’ votes are their weapon in the fight against “right-to-work.”
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, updated members on the status of the Citizens’ Referendum petition, which requires signatures of five percent of voters from two-thirds of Missouri’s congressional districts to put the issue before voters in November 2018.
“Just like the Bread & Roses presentation, the only way we’re going to change this (“right-to-work” law) is with our vote,” Louis said. “This time next year, we are going to be in the battle of our lives, and we have to engage our friends and families and stop ‘right-to-work.’”
Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, praised the strong leadership of the St. Louis chapter of CLUW and said Labor will not be able to do any of the work that’s needed to overturn “right-to-work” without the help of each and every person in the room.
“I can’t tell you how much we’re going to need your help over the next year,” White said. “A lot of people don’t realize this, but women make up pretty much half of the workforce in the United States.”
CALL TO ACTION
Missouri AFL-CIO Political Director Merri Berry served as the keynote speaker for the event. She provided the group with status updates on several anti-worker bills circulating in the Missouri legislature, including those relating to Prevailing Wage, paycheck deception and Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).
As for the upcoming “right-to-work” battle, Berry said, “We’re going to beat “right-to-work” as a team, and I have three requests for you:
You can sign-up to Count Me In! with the Missouri AFL-CIO here or send your name, address, cell phone number and email address to email@example.com or text it to nortw at 738-674.