The good, the bad and the ugly of 2016
By MICHAEL LOUIS
President, Missouri AFL-CIO
As so many people do, I have spent the last week reflecting on 2016 as President of the Missouri AFL-CIO. There have been numerous things to be proud of and some not so proud moments. Let me start off by talking about the things we accomplished in 2016 that the Labor Movement should be proud of.
Once again we were able to stand our ground during the legislative session of 2016 and fight off the attacks of “right-to-work,” paycheck deception and other pieces of legislation that were introduced. The concerted efforts by all of Organized Labor to write letters, make phone calls and lobby both in home districts as well as in Jefferson City paid off. All of those attacks seemed to die on the vine because of our efforts
A piece of very dangerous legislation that was intended to cut unemployment insurance benefits that was passed in the veto session was challenged by the Missouri AFL-CIO. Eventually, in a Missouri Supreme Court decision, the bill was found to have been improperly passed by the State Legislature. All of those members who had suffered a job loss or a lay-off and were denied benefits they had earned were ordered to be made whole for their losses and became part of a several million dollar settlement that spread all across the state. Our thanks to our attorneys for a job very well done!
Those things could not have happened if we had not all worked together in the best interests of all working families in Missouri.
Within the same year mistakes were made. I will not be going into a lot of detail as I believe we are past those issues, but I would be remiss not to apologize one more time. In the heat of battle many things are said or done, that whether it is intended to hurt people or not, sometimes it does. I made one such mistake this past year. The good news is that friends of all parties were able to bring people together to listen, to apologize, to ask to be forgiven, to forgive, to shake hands and agree that we are all working in the best interests of union members and working families. I can reassure you that I have learned a valuable lesson and shall move forward with diplomacy, understanding and respect for all people. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who helped make that happen.
The ugly? The November 2016 elections put all of us back on our heels. But, I look upon what can and probably will happen during our next legislative session not as a threat to the very life of Organized Labor but as an opportunity for all of us to continue to work together. It is up to the Missouri AFL-CIO to create a plan that does these things. We all must listen to our members all across this state and address what is important to them as their organization both in the workplace and in the State Legislature. We must all commit to work together to stop the attacks on our members in their workplace and keep the government out of not only our business, but the personal decisions of what union members are allowed to vote on in their contracts. We must all be willing to give that little bit extra this year to help create resources that will stop these attacks.
I am confident that when your union calls on you for some help it will be in every union family’s and every working family’s best interest to pause, listen and consider what is at stake for all of us. Each of you has my commitment that I will not be waiting to play defense. It is time for Missouri’s working families to stand together, raise our voices and say “don’t tread on us.”
May everyone have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year and may God’s speed be with us all.