By TIM ROWDEN
Thirty-one dollars an hour vs. $8 an hour. That’s the reality facing working families if right-to-work (for less) were to become a reality in Missouri.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster summed it up in a speech last week before about 200 union members and Democratic office holders at the South County Labor Club, where he reiterated his pledge to donate $100,000 this year to help elect more Democrats to the legislature.
Nowhere has the reality of right-to-work (for less) been clearer than on the recently completed Rulo Bridge in northwest Missouri, connecting Holt County, Mo. with Rulo, Neb. on Highway 159.
Nebraska is a right-to-work (for less) state, and in the middle of that bridge, Koster said, as the crews from Missouri and Nebraska connected the span, Missouri union workers came face-to-face with the reality of right-to-work.
“The workers who brought that new bridge out from Nebraska east into the center of that river, brought that bridge out at $8.31 cents an hour,” Koster said. “The Missouri worker who brought it out from east to west brought it out at $31.56 an hour.
“Two sets of men met out in the center of that river when that bridge was completed and those two spans were hooked up,” Koser said.
“Two sets of fathers, raising two different sets of families. One father making $8 an hour; one father making $31 an hour. That’s two different hopes for education for their children. Two different health care systems. Two different pensions. Two different dreams for a future.
“The only difference between those two guys, the only difference, is that one of the guys lives on soil that values, by tradition and by law, the work of his hands, and one man doesn’t. And because of that, there is all of the difference in the world in their lives.”
That’s the reality of right-to-work (for less), Koster said. And that’s what’s at stake in the anti-worker, Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature.
Right-to-work (for less) failed in the Missouri Legislature this year, but the anti-union, anti-worker stalwart is expected to return – perhaps as early as next year, as a referendum to be decided by voters.
BY THE NUMBERS
There are only about 90 people standing between the Republican-controlled legislature and right-to-work (for less) in Missouri, Koster said.
They include 75 state representatives, 14 senators and the governor.
Electing more Democrats is essential, Koster said, to weakening the stranglehold the Republican majority has on the Missouri Legislature.
Toward that end, Koster reiterated his pledge to donate $100,000 this year to help elect more Democrat legislators to combat the Republican veto-proof majority in the Missouri House and Senate.
Koster announced plans earlier this year to donate at least $100,000 per year for four years to help elect more Democrats to the legislature “to make sure that our allies are funded and that these minorities build their way back to majorities.”
In addition to Koster, speakers at last week’s meeting included State Senator and President of the Missouri State Building Trades Council Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) (IBEW Local 1), Missouri AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey and Secretary/Treasurer Mike Louis, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Treasurer Jeff Aboussie and Missouri AFL-CIO Political Director Shannon Weber.
Also in attendance were Representative and state Senate candidate Jeff Roorda (D-Barnart), business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, Rep. Bob Burns (D-Affton), Sen. Scott Sifton (D-Affton) Rep. Vicky Englund (D-South St. Louis County), Democratic candidate for state representative Deb Lavender of Kirkwood, and St. Louis County Councilman and Democratic candidate for County Executive Steve Stenger.
TAKING FROM THE WORKING CLASS
Fighting right-to-work (for less) and other anti-worker measures requires a conversation, McVey said, with our families, our friends and our neighbors.
“Right-to-work is about CEOs taking more money from the middle class and working class America,” McVey said.
“A simple way to put it is $31 an hour over $8 an hour. If you don’t understand that, there’s not much we can do to help you.”
WHAT’S RIGHT FOR MISSOURI
Anti-worker measures such as right-to-work (for less) are a threat not just to union members, Aboussie said, but to all working Missourians.
Louis put it in terms of family.
“I want my son to be able to put his kids through college, just like I put him through college,” Louis said. “That’s what this is about. In a right-to-work state, most people cannot really afford to do that. People don’t have enough money to make ends meet. You can’t make a better life when you’re working two jobs, you don’t have benefits and you can’t pay for your kids’ education. That’s not a better life. That’s not what is right for Missouri. Being a non-RTW state is what’s right for Missouri.”