By ED FINKELSTEIN
St. Louis – Between 800 – 1,000 enthusiastic trade unionists turned our for an old-fashioned labor rally Oct. 16 to cheer on the top Democratic candidates for election Nov. 6, and enthusiastic they were! And the candidates responded in kind.
Gov. Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill headed up the Democratic slate of speakers that included Susan Montee for Lt. Governor, Clint Zweifel for re-election as Missouri Treasurer, Jason Kander for Secretary-of-State and Chris Koster for re-election as Attorney General.
The IBEW Local 1 meeting hall was not large enough for the crowd so audio speakers were set up outside on the parking lot for the overflow.
GOVERNOR JAY NIXON
“The greatest asset we have (in Missouri) is our talented workers who can compete with anyone in the world,” Nixon said to rousing, hooting, whistling and raucous applause.
Pointing out that “Trained, skilled, train workers are good for our economy,” the governor said with pride: “Our workers show up on time, do quality work, work hard, stay late, get the job done on time and on budget.”
He made the clear distinction between himself and his opponent, millionaire businessman Dave Spence:
“I want to lift workers up, my opponent wants to tear them down,” the governor stressed noting that Spence has advocated strongly for the anti-worker, phony right-to-work (for less), killing the minimum wage, and eliminating the prevailing wage for construction workers.
“Right to work (for less) will not happen on my watch! I will stand up for workers…and use my veto as often as I have to,” Nixon said, again to rousing applause.
He proudly pointed to the fact that Missouri’s newest unemployment rate is 6.9 percent (it was 9.6 percent when he passed his first jobs bill), “But we are not done yet, but we are headed in the right direction.
Noting that Missouri is exporting more goods than ever before, he added: “It will be nice when someone walks into a store in Bejing and picks up something that says ‘Made in the U.S.A.’” The crowd went wild!
“Election Day is a working day,” he concluded, adding, “You have to help all these good candidates by voting, and not voting alone, but taking someone with you to vote as well.”
In the plain speaking terms Senator Claire McCaskill is known for, she told the enthusiastic crowd that at the end of the day, this race was not about her, but rather “this race is about you, each of you” as she pointed out that her opponent, Todd Akin, was promoting “a race to the bottom.”
To make her point, she noted that:
• Akin wants to abolish the minimum wage. “That’s meant to be a floor, not a ceiling.”
• Akin wants to give employers the right to discriminate.
• Akin doesn’t believe in equal pay for equal work. “He wants employers to be able to decide what they’ll pay you.”
“He doesn’t hide what he believes…he wants a race to the bottom,” she said as the crowd jeered and booed.
Noting that America is the envy of the world, McCaskill stressed:
“Everyone wants the standard of living we have here. You fought to make that possible in deciding that the workplace doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom. Everyone deserves a piece of success, not just the guys in the boardroom.”
“You want to raise your families in dignity, send your kids to college, make sure you have access to health care. I couldn’t be prouder to be on your side,” the senator concluded.
In her fight for the lieutenant governor’s job, Susan Montee noted that the attacks against working people, union families in Missouri would continue in the upcoming legislative session.
This job is important, and once people recognize that, there is no way they’ll re-elect Peter Kinder who has consistently abused his office by not doing his job and abusing taxpayers trust by using state money for personal life.
“My commitment to working people, to organized labor has been unwavering. Kinder has long been opposed to the issues important to labor.
You can count on me to “be a true advocate for veterans and seniors.”
The incumbent attorney general proudly said that he has prosecuted “more prevailing wage criminals than any prosecutor in the state.
“We’ve stood up against right-to-work (for less), supported equal pay for equal work. We’ll work to make sure that working people have a full voice at the table and that they are protected on our state’s jobsites.
“We’ll have your back for the next four years if all of you take the energy in this room and turn it into votes on Nov. 6.”
His opponent, Ed Martin, has never tried a case in a courtroom. This office, the state chief law enforcement officer, is not the place to let people try and learn on the job, he pointed out.
Clint Zweifel, a member of Teamsters Local 688, said he was honored to sever as your state treasurer for the past four year.
He pointed to his accomplishments:
• Helping the state maintain its AAA credit rating.
• Expanding the savings program to help families send their kids to college. “More students are in the MOST program than ever before.”
• For the first time in the state’s history, ensuring that the State Housing Commission under his supervision pays prevailing wages on all their projects.
Pointing out that his father and grandfather were union construction workers and his mother a hairdresser, Zweifel said that organized labor was always in the background of everything he did and learned.
“I learned this basic values early, I learned that when we stand together, everyone’s life is lifted up. These are the American values I stand for,” he stressed to a rousing applause.
Pointing out that his dad’s lunchbox had a “right-to-work is a RIPOFF” bumper sticker, he added that these were the kinds of values he learned from him: you don’t cross a picket line, you stand up for people in need, we stand together to move forward together.
Noting that his opponent, Shane Schoeller, was the leader in the legislature to eliminate absentee voting, Jason Kander, the Democrat for Secretary of State, said,” I was proud to be a part of a bi-partisan effort to kill that bill.”
In 2008 about 320,000 Missourians voted absentee, some 12,000 of them military. I am not about to let Schoeller take away the rights they are over their risking their lives to protect,” adding that it would also impact the elderly and the infirm here, and he won’t let that happen. Thunderous applause.
An Army vet who served in Afghanistan, he said that he focused on ending corruption overseas. “When I came home and was elected, I discovered there’s plenty of that to deal with right here.”
“That’s why I’ve worked so hard on campaign reform, and will keep working on it as the state’s chief election officer.
He thanked everyone for the support they gave him in the recent primary election.
“I’ve always stood up for working families and that will never change.”
He praised the entire Democratic ticket, from President Obama and Vice President Biden, Governor Nixon and the rest of the candidates at the rally.
He pointed out that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent and that “Romney and Ryan were mad about it because they don’t want to see anything good happen to working people” before the election.
“That’s what they been about these last four years, trying to stop the Congress from doing its work to help working Americans, all Americans. But it won’t work and on Nov. 6 we’re going to show them why.”
“This election is about our children and grandchildren, what kind of a future we are going to make for them. With your help, we’ll protect their future.”
Serving as hosts for the rally were St. Louis Labor Council President Bob Soutier, St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Aboussie and Teamsters Joint Council 13 President Marvin Kropp.
The audience expressed their appreciation to United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655 who obtained the donated hot dogs, buns and sodas from Schnuck Markets.