By ED FINKELSTEIN
Missouri’s political coward, Governor Eric Greitens, has decided that the best way to help the Missouri workers he pledged to support while campaigning is to cut their wages — some 35,000 of them in the city of St. Louis — and make it almost impossible for a worker to sue an employer for discrimination.
Bowing to the Big Business, dark money interests that bankrolled his campaign and will do so for his rumored future presidential campaign, Greitens refused to veto House Bill 1194, a bill that on Aug. 28 will cut the new St. Louis minimum wage of $10 an hour back down to the state’s abysmal $7.70 an hour.
The St. Louis minimum wage increase took effect May 5, impacting over 35,000 desperately underpaid workers employed in the city by placing an additional $1,800 a year in their paychecks. The increase would have impacted a total of 69,000 workers in January, when an increase to $11 an hour was set to take effect. And it would have helped the economy as workers spent their paychecks at local businesses.
All of that is gone now, thanks to Greitens’ cowardice in not standing up to the Big Money business interests that back him. As a result, workers who enjoyed a brief taste of a higher minimum wage will now see their paychecks cut by $2.30 an hour – or $92 a week for a 40-hour employee.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 janitor Sierra Parker, who saw her wage increase to $10 under St. Louis’ minimum wage hike, said Greitens’ announcement on the Friday before the Fourth of July holiday that he would not veto the bill showed his decision was never about Missouri’s working families. “It was always about lowering wages and making his rich donors happy,” Parker said.
“The $10 minimum wage has already changed my life for the better,” Parker said. “Now, Governor Greitens intends to take money out of the pockets of more than 35,000 St. Louis working families. For me and so many others, that means going back to living paycheck-to-paycheck.”
And the pain doesn’t stop there. HB 1194 also nullifies St. Louis’ 2017 Living Wage Ordinance which requires employers benefiting from certain taxpayer-funded contracts with the city to pay their employees a living wage equal to $12.76 an hour where health benefits are required or $17.03 an hour where health benefits are not provided. The ordinance impacted an estimated 140 SEIU Local 1 members and more than 84 janitors at St. Louis Lambert Airport, all of whom will now see their wages drop precipitously.
Greitens also signed a measure making it more difficult to prove workplace and housing discrimination.
Senate Bill 43 (SB 43), which Greitens signed into law, guts the Missouri Human Rights Statute, which protects employees who have been discriminated against in the workplace based on their age, ancestry, color, disability, sex, religion, race or nation of origin by requiring workers who claim discrimination in wrongful termination lawsuits to prove that bias was the explicit reason they were fired.
Current law requires them to prove only that bias was “a motivating factor.” Under the new law, former employees will have to prove that bias was “the motivating factor” in their dismissal.
The bill also makes changes to the state’s whistleblower laws, including removing protections for state employees. It caps punitive damages a victim can be awarded in discrimination or harassment lawsuits and mandates those alleging discrimination can only sue employers and not individual employees or supervisors who may have engaged in the discriminatory or harassing behavior.
Another loss for workers, another win for employers.
BACKED BY THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Cooperative Home Care, Missouri Restaurant Association, Missouri Retailers Association, National Federation of Independent Business, Naufel Inc. and Associated Industries of Missouri sued to stop the St. Louis minimum wage hike when it was passed two years ago and supported, lobbied for and supported the repeal measure.
The Chamber and other business groups also supported the discrimination measure.
The Missouri AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice and many community and social justice groups fought the issues but were no match for the Big Business and dark money groups that pull the governor’s strings.
Greitens didn’t have the courage to veto the discrimination bill or even to sign the minimum wage repeal. He simply ignored the repeal measure and will let it automatically go into effect on Aug. 28.
“This is a sheer act of political cowardice in not standing up for what he pledged to do – help improve the lot of Missouri’s workers,” said St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White.
A full-time 40-hour-a-week worker, even at $10 an hour, would only have been making $20,800 a year compared to the $16,016 they will earn at the $7.70 wage, White said.
That’s hardly a living wage, White said, but for those workers, it meant the difference between having to decide what bills they can pay and having enough money to eat.
“The Republicans are always talking about letting local communities and states determine what’s best for themselves. Here the city of St. Louis makes a decision for its community and the Republicans tell the city leaders they don’t have the right to really govern themselves as they see fit for their residents. It’s the worst kind of hypocrisy, and workers who can least afford it are going to pay the price.”
Greitens signs cuts to critical nursing care services for 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians
Home care, nursing home, hospital workers and members of SEIU Healthcare Missouri condemned Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ recent decision to cut critical Medicaid services.
“Access to quality healthcare is critical for Missourians to succeed,” said Alexis Straughter, a healthcare worker at Royal Oaks Nursing and Rehab in St. Louis. “There were other viable choices to make, but Governor Greitens chose to put our most vulnerable neighbors at risk. It’s heartbreaking to think about how these changes will hurt our patients, and hurt all of the hardworking caregivers who serve them.”
CUTS WILL DEVASTATE FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
“Governor Greitens’ choices will devastate families and hurt our communities,” Straughter said. “Since taking office, he’s claimed to support working families — but then he chose to slash help for the elderly and disabled, folks who can’t even help themselves. Missourians deserve better,” said Straughter.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas unites more than 90,000 workers who provide vital services to children, seniors, patients and people with disabilities.