ONE MAN’S VIEW: A letter to our political leaders: Unions are a major driver of state’s economy

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Dear Governor Parson and members of the Missouri Legislature:

With the myriad of challenges facing you this term, a critical point for your consideration — the proposals to ignore the overwhelming will of voters and try, yet again, to impose a misnamed so-called “right-to-work” law are drastically shortsighted.

While our Labor unions represent only about nine percent of Missouri’s workforce, the fact that we are a major economic engine is lost in all the distorted rhetoric trying to justify overturning the voters’ overwhelming decision that RTW is not wanted in Missouri.

A few statistics of which you probably are not aware:

• MILLIONS IN CHARITABLE WORK, DONATIONS
In an annual survey by the Labor Tribune of St. Louis area unions, our members last year donated $1.9 million in FREE work and monetary contributions to local charities, religious groups and civic efforts. In the past six years, union members’ free labor and monetary support surpassed $12 million! These survey results represent only about a quarter of the St. Louis unions – 56 that participated in the survey, out of more than 200. Think what the total must be statewide! Now, think what RTW would do to that.

• TRAINING MISSOURI’S WORKFORCE FOR THE FUTURE
With state funding for education always a critical issue and a growing need for skilled workers, our building trades union members in St. Louis alone fund, from their paychecks, over $60 million annually to support apprenticeship programs and journeymen skills training upgrade programs, ensuring our state has the skilled construction workforce it needs to meet current and future economic growth, one of the top issues companies consider when looking to relocate or expand. This training is paid for by union members, through their union dues, all across Missouri at NO EXPENSE to taxpayers.

That’s money you don’t have to include in state budget considerations.

• ECONOMIC RETURN TO OUR STATE’S ECONOMY
Another, older survey by the Missouri Building & Construction Trades Council of money that flows into Missouri’s economy as a direct result of our unions shows:

  • Health care benefits: $1.44 billion paid by union Health & Welfare Funds for health care services in Missouri.
  • Pension payments: $270 million in union pension payments to keep workers off the welfare roles. That’s money that is spent in EVERY local community in Missouri, a real boost to local businesses.
  • Pension fund investments: $1.81 billion of union pension fund monies invested into Missouri housing and commercial construction, generating another $2.2 to $2.6 billion in additional economic activity, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and new tax revenue for Missouri.

(Note: These numbers are based on a 16-year-old survey. At that time, total union investment in Missouri equaled 17 percent of the state’s total budget. If you increase those numbers by a conservative two percent a year, you get a sense of the TRUE economic impact our unions — only nine percent of Missouri’s workforce — have on our state’s economy.

And these numbers don’t include the actual wages paid to union members — money that, again, flows back into local businesses across the state in the communities you represent.

UNIONS ARE A TRUE ECONOMIC ENGINE
While union members represent a small fraction of our state’s workforce, our unions are a true ECONOMIC ENGINE supporting Missouri’s economy. Why jeopardize these investments in a legislative effort to weaken, if not destroy, our unions?

The arguments put forth by supporters of so-called “right-to-work” and similar anti-union measures you are now considering are distorted and short-sighted, reflecting little real knowledge of unions and how they work. Instead, these measures are based on the greed and shortsightedness of some few companies and company owners for whom workers are little more than an obstacle to short term shareholder profits.

“Right-to-work” is not just a union issue; it impacts all Missouri workers and the long-term health of our state’s economy.

I felt it important to share with you these little known or understood facts about the impact nine percent of Missouri’s workforce has on our state, your constituents — union and non-union — and Missouri’s future.

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