At the halfway mark, Missouri politicians struggle to help working people

By DAVID A. COOK
President

The Missouri Legislature has officially adjourned for their one-week spring break, marking the halfway point of the 2022 legislative session.

As of this moment, they have managed to send only a single bill to the governor’s desk. It’s an historic low, but not a surprising one given the level of dysfunction we’re currently seeing in the Missouri State Senate.

In that chamber, the Republican Party is broken into two factions and the bitter infighting has brought almost all legislative work to a halt. This is a mixed bag for the people living in this state.

ABJECT FAILURE
On the one hand, it is an abject failure to the people who sent elected officials to Jefferson City to help improve our state. Twelve percent of Missourians live in poverty; we have the lowest-paid state workers in the nation; we rank dead last in senior living care; and the impact of COVID is still felt across the state as business owners and workers struggle to recover from economic collapse.

Add to that the dismal state of our roads and bridges and ballooning inflation and life is hardly a walk in the park for many people here.

ADVERSARIAL APPROACH TO WORKING FAMILIES
On the other hand, many members of the Republican Party have taken an adversarial approach to working-class Missourians:

  • They’ve slashed unemployment benefits.
  • Rejected voter-approved Medicaid expansion.
  • Tried to cut minimum wage, and
  • Supported numerous anti-worker bills like “Right-to-Work-for-Less” and paycheck deception.

More often than not, if Republicans in Jefferson City are paying any attention to working Missourians, it means they are on the attack.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that their own petty feuds have made them unable to attack union and non-union workers. Then again, that same feuding has prevented them from distributing more COVID relief funds around the state and kept them from taking virtually any steps to actually help the people who elected them.

‘CONSERVATIVE CAUCUS’
Last week, a broadly popular bill to establish a “sexual assault survivor’s bill of rights” was smoothly headed toward bipartisan passage when it was brought to a screeching halt.

The source of the dysfunction largely comes from the so-called “Conservative Caucus.” About seven senators claim membership to this caucus, and they have established a habit of blowing up any bill that doesn’t cater to their pet issues.

Last year, we nearly lost billions of dollars for our hospitals when a routine budget bill was filibustered over an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. The sexual assault bill was similarly derailed by an amendment: this time it was aimed at banning certain books in our schools.

Two weeks ago, a bipartisan bill to extend Medicaid benefits to new mothers from 60 days to a full year was crushed, once again, by the so-called “Conservative Caucus” and their rogue members who insisted on yet another amendment regarding Planned Parenthood.

THROWING A TANTRUM
Let’s be clear: regardless of how you feel about these cultural issues like Planned Parenthood, “Critical Race Theory,” gun rights or anything else, we should all agree that these issues should not bring the business of our state to a complete halt. We ask our elected officials to work together and compromise in order to do the hard work of governing. Refusing to get the work done for the people is a dereliction of duty.

A handful of politicians in the capitol are essentially throwing a tantrum. They are holding their breath and stamping their feet, refusing to do anything unless they get their way. While this may mean that the legislature is unable to attack workers, it also means they can’t work on any bills that might help workers either.

So here we are, between a rock and a hard place, with elected officials so broken that they are unable to get even the most basic work of the state done. Even worse we have elected officials whose agendas are so counter to the needs and desires of the state that their inaction might be preferable to their action.

WE NEED ELECTED OFFICIALS WHO ACTUALLY CARE

There are clear and obvious needs here in Missouri:

  • We have too many people living in poverty and without access to medical care.
  • We have too many children in substandard schools.
  • We have too many roads and bridges in need of repair.
  • We have too many workers that are underpaid.
  • We have too many businesses unable to keep their doors open.

The people of Missouri desperately need elected officials who actually care about these issues instead of endlessly feeding our cultural divides.

At this very moment UFCW Local 655 and our bargaining committee are meeting regularly with our largest employer, Schnucks. We enter those negotiations with specific goals in mind, but we also know there will be compromises. We know we have a responsibility to bargain in good faith, not to throw stones. In short, we have an obligation to be decent, honest, and sincere in our goals. We strive to be professional and thoughtful in our conversations, and we don’t seek out fights when they simply aren’t necessary.

It’s a shame our elected officials can’t do the same thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top