‘Our agenda drives our politics… we stand with those who stand with us’
By TIM ROWDEN
Missouri is ground zero for anti-worker attacks, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a recent visit to St. Louis, and the Labor Movement must continue to hold the line in 2016 and beyond.
“Your state motto is fitting,” Trumka said. “The Missouri Labor Movement has shown guts. You’ve shown courage. You’ve shown determination. You’ve shown us how to beat the odds and the wealthy special interests. You’ve shown us how to build a bipartisan coalition of pro-worker legislators who are willing to risk their jobs to help working families. You’ve shown us how to strengthen existing coalitions and build new ones. Above all, you’ve shown us the true power of solidarity.”
With a standing-room-only crowd gathered to hear him speak, Trumka brought the Labor 2016 campaign to St. Louis July 9 with a clear message and challenge for union members, leaders, volunteers and activists at Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 36 hall.
“The corporate right-wing has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at us here in Missouri – right-to- work, paycheck deception, prevailing wage…. You name it, Missouri has been ground zero for anti-worker attacks. By standing together… we have defeated every single bad piece of legislation. It is absolutely critical that we build on these successes in 2016.”
‘WORKERS WILL RULE THE DAY’
Labor leaders and rank-and-file members, worker-friendly state representatives and affiliates came to their feet in applause as Trumka said, “I am here today to say loudly and clearly that workers are going to rule the day in Missouri once again.”
Doing so, Trumka said, will require activism, canvassing, phone banking and getting out the vote to elect worker-friendly Democrats AND Republicans to state and national office and defeat Missouri’s bogus voter ID referendum in November.
“This is the time to stand with those who have stood with us,” Trumka stressed before launching into a who’s who of worker friendly candidates like Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), who is running for state Senate; Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is running on the Democratic ticket to defeat Sen. Roy Blunt; gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster – whose campaign Trumka called “the most important gubernatorial race in the country” – and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – who Trumka said “... has spent her entire career fighting to make life better for workers and families and women and children.”
Trumka was joined on the dais by state and local labor leaders, State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis), St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, St. Louis County NAACP representative John Gaskin III, St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition Labor Union Women President Sonja Gholston-Byrd, Missouri AFL-CIO’s President Mike Louis and Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel, St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White, Machinists District 9 Directing Business Representative Mark Conner and IBEW 1439 Business Representative Mark Staffne. (See related stories below.)
‘WE NEED YOU’
Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said, “Our state has never been in a position that is more historic, and going to frame the future of Labor organizations in this state, than we are today. We need you. We need you to accomplish a lot. We need you to make sure that Missouri never becomes a right-to-work state.
“Without commitment, we all lose,” Louis said. “We become right-to-work. And we’re not going to let that happen.”
‘CAN’T AFFORD TO SIT IT OUT’
Machinists District 9 Directing Business Representative Mark Conner said District 9 has been actively working with the Missouri AFL-CIO for the past several years to fight back right-to-work, attacks on prevailing wage, paycheck deception and other anti-worker efforts and will continue the in-the-trenches work of canvassing, phone banking and getting out the vote in this year’s election.
“We are on board with the Labor 2016 program because we know that we have to get out there. In 2016, we cannot afford to sit out. We need to make sure that we elect Chris Koster, we elect Jason Kander as your next Senator. We need to make sure that we elect and re-elect worker-friendly legislators who have stood with us and are going to stand with us in Jefferson City.
“The Machinists are doing our part by being part of that fight to make sure that we elect those legislators who took the hard votes and stood with us and took care of us,” Conner said. “Those legislators are under attack and we need to help them. Let it be understood, we don’t support parties. We support politicians that support our interests.”
THE RIGHT THING TO DO
IBEW 1439 Business Representative Mark Staffne, a stalwart volunteer for Labor walks and other outreach, said he can be counted on to volunteer because it’s the right thing to do, particularly when right-wing extremists pushing right-to-work and other anti-worker measures are trying to take money out of union members’ pockets.
“Brothers and sisters and died for the rights that we have here today,” Staffne said. “How can I not give a couple of hours on the weekend or the evening to keep what we have? It’s pretty simple” he added, urging everyone to spare two to three hours on a weekend to help make calls or knock on doors of union members.
NAACP stands with working families, and against RTW
Labor knows who its friends are and builds bridges to reach common goals for working families.
One case in point is the relationship between Labor and the NAACP.
St. Louis County NAACP representative John Gaskin III spoke at the Labor 2016 campaign kickoff at Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 36 hall and laid to rest recent rumors about divisiveness between the two groups.
“The rumor in the community across the state is that the NAACP supports right-to-work,” Gaskin said. “I want you to hear it form the horse’s mouth: that’s a lie! That’s not true.
“The NAACP has never supported, and will never support, repressive anti-worker legislation like right-to-work. We’ve been there we’ve done that, and we don’t need to turn the clock back. I’m here to tell you first hand from the chairman of the board and the CEO, the NAACP never has and never will be supportive of right-to-work anywhere in this country.
LABOR PROBLEM = NAACP PROBLEM
“If you’ve got a problem with Labor, you’ve got a problem with the NAACP,” Gaskin said.
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, praised Gaskin and the NAACP for likeminded efforts to stop repressive voter ID legislation and fight back against anti-worker legislation like right-to-work, paycheck deception and changes to prevailing wage.
“If you don’t work with the organizations that have the same beliefs that your do, you work alone,” Louis said. “We are so much stronger when we work with organizations who care about working families, who care about creating jobs, who care about helping people get to a place in life where they can enjoy the same things in life that a lot of us have got because we’ve got good union jobs.
Louis said he and Gaskin have become good friends because “We care about the same things, and that’s making life better for everybody.”
Friends of working families speak in praise of unions, need to get out the vote
Political friends of working families praised unions and spoke of the need to get out the vote in this year’s elections at the Labor 2016 rally for union members with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 36 hall in St. Louis.
“You guys make it possible to raise a family in America with a decent living working wage,” Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Alderman, said.
“A few years ago the Republicans coined the phrase ‘family values,’” Reed noted. “They said ‘We’re the party of family values.’ Let me tell you something, you can’t value the family if you don’t value a living wage. You can’t value the family if you don’t value universal health care for all. All those rights that we enjoy today –– a 40-hour workweek, living wage, vacation. All those things are going to be gone if we allow unions to be taken apart.”
Preventing that requires electing worker-friendly Democrats and Republicans in local, state and national races. The alternative is giving in to right-wing extremists.
‘NOT ON MY WATCH’
Missouri Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis), long a champion for working families in the State Legislature, explained the situation in Jefferson City.
“Here in the state of Missouri we have right-wing extremists that are trying to turn back the clock on the Union Movement as we know it, and I’m here to tell you that ‘not on my watch!’ We will not allow all these right-wing extremists in the House and the Senate to push right-to-work because right-to-work is wrong for Missouri.
“We will not allow them to tell us that prevailing wage is too much money to put food on the table for union workers.
“And then there’s paycheck – I call it deception. How dare you come before a committee and say we need paycheck deception when no union member has come to any of these right-wing extremists and said this is what we want?
UNIONS: FABRIC OF AMERICA
“The Union Movement as we know is the fabric of this country. It’s the Union Movement that built the bridges and the highways and the roads.
“As long as I have every bone in my body, we’re going to push back on RTW.
“If we turn back the clock, we have lost our way as Americans with regards to the Union Movement.”