The AFL-CIO is pleased to bring its 28th Constitutional Convention to the great city of St. Louis. More than a thousand union members, guests and allies will come together around a bold agenda that lifts up our families and communities.
We made the decision to bring our convention to St. Louis because it’s a proud union town with a tremendous history of activism on economic and social justice. Working people from every corner in the country will gather to strategize on how to change the rules of an economy that is rigged against us.
See conference details here.
Union members and our allies come to this Convention amid a rising tide of energy and growing demand for real answers to the serious challenges working people face. The crisis before us is significant, but so are the opportunities.
READY FOR TODAY’S CHALLENGES
Working people are hungry and ready to make our voices heard. We are building a unified and diverse Labor Movement ready to take on the challenges of our time. We are focusing on organizing so we can empower working people and more effectively confront corporate power. We are using our influence in the halls of power to rewrite the economic rules so they actually work for working people. And we are declaring our independence from political parties so issues, not labels, drive our agenda.
We are planning the most worker-focused, action-oriented convention in the AFL-CIO’s history. There will be no parade of D.C. insiders or political VIPs. Instead, our convention will focus on giving voice to working people and expanding the freedom to join together in union for everyone who wants a job. On the afternoon of Oct. 23, we will talk directly with voters in support of a citizen’s veto of Missouri’s “right-to-work” law.
We will come together in unity and with clarity of purpose and build an America that works for all of us.
Unions are American workers’ last line of defense
By MIKE LOUIS
President, Missouri AFL-CIO
Brothers & Sisters,
Welcome to our beautiful city, a city built by the hands of the Labor Movement.
Our world-famous Gateway Arch was built with 100 percent union labor in the early 1960s.
Busch Stadium, home to the 11-time World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, was built by union men and women.
The convention center, where we are meeting this week, bringing together union brothers and sisters from every corner of the United States, was built by union labor.
Through changing times, we have remained a proud union city.
St. Louis was once the shoe capitol of the world, where the Brown Shoe Company produced the largest quantities of union-made shoes in America.
Our city was home to McDonnell Douglas (later to merge with Boeing), where union Machinists built the Saturn V rocket that sent men to space.
St. Louis is the birthplace of the IBEW, Bricklayers and other unions that got their start here.
St. Louis is a union town, and the perfect place to host this year’s AFL-CIO Convention.
CHALLENGES IN MISSOURI
As you may know, Missouri has had its fair share of struggles ranging from social
unrest to the passage of union busting laws in our State Legislature. Through all these attacks the Labor Movement has remained focused on building a stronger, more unified community.
We will not stop fighting for equality for every single family. That is what the Labor Movement has always been about and we are not about to stop now.
Sadly, instead of fighting for working families, by passing policies that build a stronger community, many of our politicians in Jefferson City are working against us.
This past legislative session, Missouri politicians passed a phony so-called “right-to-work” bill into law. This assault on ordinary working Missourians has not deterred us. Instead, Missourians have banded together to fight back. Over the course of several months, in the severe cold and the sweltering heat, working people collected signatures to put “right-to-work” on the ballot.
By law, we needed 107,510 signatures in six of our eight congressional districts to place the measure on the ballot. But the working people of Missouri exceeded all expectations and turned in 310,567 signatures and qualified in ALL EIGHT of our congressional districts!
“Right-to-work” will be on the ballot in November of 2018. It is going to be a fight for our very livelihood, but we are up to the challenge.
With your help, we will defeat this disastrous anti-union, anti-worker law that will not only hurt all Missourians but will be used by the corporate elite as a pretext for a stronger push for a national “right-to-work” law.
Missouri’s fight will impact everyone, everywhere.
LAST LINE OF DEFENSE
We are under attack by politicians and their billionaire buddies, but the Missouri AFL-CIO has never backed down.
Whether it’s attacks on Project Labor Agreements, paycheck deception, efforts to repeal Prevailing Wage, lowering the minimum wage, “right-to-work” or any of the long list of anti-union, anti-worker laws – the Labor Movement in Missouri — across America — is the last line of defense for the middle-class.
Every one of us has a duty to fight for the middle-class workers who built this country. We are the leaders who will shape the future for our kids and grandkids. It’s time to re-commit ourselves to a stronger unity than ever before. Together We Win.
On behalf of hard working Missourians, welcome to our beautiful city and state. Enjoy your stay. Enjoy the convention. And come back soon.
Welcome to St. Louis, a great union city
I would like to welcome each and every one of you to the great city of St. Louis, “The Gateway to the West.”
I’m proud to say that St. Louis is one of the great union cities in America, and Missouri one of the great Union Proud states in America. Our Show-Me state showed that pride in 1978 when we defeated the phony “right-to-work (for less),” and we’re about to do it again next year when Missouri citizens will get their chance to veto this anti-union, anti-worker law. The RIPOFF will not prevail in Missouri!
Let me introduce you to our proud Labor Community:
• We are the birthplace of the IBEW, which was founded approximately four blocks west of the convention center. The historic building where the IBEW first started now houses a great Henry Miller Museum charting the IBEW’s history.
• We are also home to many more “Local 1s” where these proud International Unions started.
• Our area has been booming recently with construction work, and the majority of that work is going to signatory contractors of our union construction trades.
• Our city and region are home to some of the nation’s strongest industrial unions, along with unionized fire fighters and police departments.
• Our most famous landmark, the Gateway Arch, was built with 100 percent union labor.
• Our Machinists build the finest fighter jets for our military.
• Our hotels employ union janitors and housekeepers. The chairs you’re sitting in at this convention were put there by union workers.
• Our public utilities – the industry I come from – are 100 percent union.
POLITICAL ACTION AND PROGRESSIVE ENGAGEMENT
St. Louis is a union town through and through. We are committed to making our city, region and state better and fairer for all workers through solid contracts, organizing, political action and progressive engagement.
• We have nine Labor Clubs throughout the St. Louis region providing a forum for brothers and sisters from different unions to discuss politics and how they can engage in the politics that affect them locally. These clubs meet monthly, are open to all union members and retirees to join in the area where they reside, and provide two spots for each union on their executive boards.
• Our Labor Council includes five very active constituency groups, represented on our Council’s Executive Board, that reflect the great diversity of our community. This includes the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Coalition of Labor Union Women and PRIDE@WORK, which represents our LGBTQ union members and their allies.
• St. Louis is a racially diverse community, and we are particularly proud of this fact, but we are not without our challenges. A few years ago, following the unrest in Ferguson, we recognized our own need to have greater engagement. State Rep. Joshua Peters (D-St. Louis), our Council’s community outreach coordinator, has been helping us achieve greater engagement with our African American community by opening doors we had never knocked on before.
• The St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, the Missouri AFL-CIO, St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council and St. Louis Community College have developed our Building Union Diversity (BUD) program, a unique pre-apprenticeship program giving minorities and women a pathway into the building trades. This program has graduated 10 classes and has a hiring rate of over 80 percent.
• Our Faith/Labor Alliance monthly breakfast brings together people of different religious backgrounds with our unions to discuss our shared Labor and Social Justice issues. Our religious representative has been instrumental in creating five Faith/Labor Alliance groups across Missouri, working to bring a faith perspective to our fights at the State Capitol in Jefferson City.
HELPING THOSE MOST IN NEED
Our Labor Council and brother and sister union members share a deep sense of civic responsibility.
• Our “$5 for the Fight Fund,” originally established in 1996 to support families during a Machinists strike, has continued as a resource for union families in need raising more than $1 million through voluntary donations from our Union brothers and sisters and others, to help struggling union families with emergency mortgage assistance and help paying for medications, rent, utilities and other expenses. This unique program is coordinated through our partners in the United Way.
• Our relationship with the United Way is unparalleled. Our Labor leaders serve on the United Way executive board, regional auxiliary boards and allocation committees. This gives us the same voice as the CEOs running the companies where our members work. The Greater St. Louis United Way has five full-time Labor Liaisons on staff available to help our members in need, and our union leaders and members coordinate community service projects and volunteer work at United Way agencies.
Finally, the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune newspaper you’re reading is one of the oldest and most decorated union newspapers in the country. For decades, the Labor Tribune has partnered with us in print, online and behind the scenes to get our message to union members and their families. It’s truly one of our great community assets.
We are truly blessed to have all of these partnerships, and continue to work every day to make St. Louis, southern Illinois and Missouri a better place to live, work and raise our families.
Enjoy your stay here! I hope you get a chance to see what our great union city has to offer.
Pat White, President
Greater St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Building Union Diversity while fighting RTW
Brothers and Sisters,
Welcome to St. Louis, home to the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues and the strongest and most progressive Labor unions in the nation.
You may read elsewhere in this edition of the Labor Tribune about our proud union history and the many unions that got their start here. I would like to tell you about a program near and dear to my heart and the future of our Labor Movement.
Our Building Union Diversity, or BUD program, is a unique pre-apprenticeship program launched in 2014 to bring more minority and female workers into our union trades.
The program represents a partnership between the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council, St. Louis-Kansas City Regional Carpenters Council and St. Louis Community College, with funding help from the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) and the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.
Our BUD program gives young people just starting their careers, and older workers looking to make a positive career change, an entryway into the building trades and the community of Organized Labor.
Participants, many of whom may be unemployed or underemployed, receive support from the United Way to help with issues such as car repairs or other problems that may be preventing them from getting or keeping a job, and the Metro St. Louis’ transit agency, which provides bus passes for participants needing transportation.
For participants who complete the program, finding a job is key. BUD helps with that as well, putting participants in contact with union representatives who can direct them, and union contractors who can hire them.
I’m proud to say the BUD program recently graduated its 10th class and boasts an 80 percent hiring rate by local contractors.
While we continue to search for innovative ways to grow and improve our Labor Movement, I’m sorry to say that union workers in Missouri are under attack. Our State Legislature this year passed a so-called “right-to-work” law. We are fighting this anti-union, anti-worker law with a Citizens’ Veto referendum which will appear on Missouri’s November 2018 ballot.
We all know this deceptively named law is nothing more than a ripoff.
• A ripoff of union members because it will allow non-members to get all the benefits of the union negotiated contract without paying one cent to the support of the union.
• A ripoff of ALL workers because whether or not they are union, the data is clear: lower wages, more work-related injuries and few, if any, employer paid benefits such as health care and pensions.
• A ripoff of our local communities because lower paying jobs mean less spending in local retail stores, which results in fewer people being hired.
• A ripoff of our union firms, particularly construction firms and suppliers, because low paid, non-union workers will flood into Missouri and steal the good paying jobs of taxpaying Missouri workers.
• A ripoff of Democracy because so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) outlaws businesses from negotiating labor contracts that assure workers will either pay dues or a smaller “fair share” fee to cover the union’s cost of bargaining and representation.
The goal, as we all know, is to financially starve unions, thereby limiting our ability to successfully negotiate and represent workers.
We cannot, and will not, allow that to happen.
Missouri workers collected 310,567 signatures to place this issue on next year’s ballot. Our public education campaign is currently under way.
I’m proud of who we are as a Labor Movement, what we’ve achieved in Missouri, and what we’re going to achieve next year. They don’t call us the Show-Me state for nothing.
Welcome to St. Louis. Enjoy your stay.
JOHN STIFFLER, Executive Secretary-Treasurer
St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO