By TIM ROWDEN Editor & ED FINKELSTEIN Publisher
Americans voted for change.
For Missourians that change will begin with a serious and unrelenting attack on workers.
The election of Republican Eric Greitens as Missouri’s next governor ushers in so-called “right-to-work” – defeated by three-to-one majorities in 1978 because it’s a terrible anti-worker law. It will be introduced into the Republican-controlled legislature, undoubtedly as its first order of business next year, will sail through both houses in record time, and will be signed by Governor-elect Greitens, despite his Election Day pledge to “… restore power to the people…”
The Missouri Legislature’s Republican leaders say passing a “right-to-work” (RTW) law will be a top priority under the next governor. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had previously vetoed RTW legislation.
House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard both say passing RTW and restricting liability lawsuits against businesses are their top goals in the upcoming January session.
State Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), chairman of the House Select Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, has already said she plans to file RTW legislation immediately in January.
So-called “right-to-work” would prohibit unions from negotiating contracts requiring employees covered by the union contract to pay union dues or, if not members of the union, fair share fees for all the services the union must, by federal law provide all workers, members and non-members alike: collective bargaining, contract administration, grievance handling, worksite safety issues, etc. The goal: to weaken unions financially so that they can’t effectively represent the workforce.
The real impact of RTW won’t be felt immediately. For unions that have current collective bargaining contracts in place, RTW will have no impact until their current contracts expire. Once they do however, companies will push employees to drop out of their union so as to weaken future contract negotiations that will ultimately result in reduced wages and benefits, workplaces becoming less safe, and more profits for companies.
The facts are clear: states that have passed “right-to-work” have lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. They also, on average, have seen smaller median income growth than Missouri.
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‘A SAD DAY’
“It’s a sad day for working Missourians,” Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said. “With the election of Eric Greitens the security of our livelihoods is being threatened. Good jobs, decent pay, safe work places are all at risk of disappearing.”
But Louis said, “The Labor Movement won’t let that happen. Time and time again in the history of the Labor Movement, we have overcome tough challenges. This will be no different. We won’t let the ruling elite and the Goliath out-of-touch corporate interests silence the voices of the Missouri’s working people. We will stand together, create coalitions with allied community groups and legislators and fight for a better life for all Missourians.”
WE FAILED OURSELVES
Working people, acting out of anger and frustration and a sense of being left behind, voted for President-elect Donald Trump and Gov.-elect Greitens out of a sense that change – any change – would be better than what they had.
In the Presidential election, CNN’s exit polling found that 51 percent of union households went for Clinton, compared to 49 percent for Trump.
In Missouri, “Every single statewide person that won statewide office campaigned on a pro-RTW platform,” St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White said. “That’s something that I hope people pay attention to over the next couple years when they start seeing what they were angry about is going to be made worse by RTW.
“They’re mad about their paychecks, they’re mad about their jobs going overseas, they’re mad about their healthcare premiums. RTW is going to make those things worse,” White said.
“The people have spoken. It certainly isn’t how I thought or hoped, they would,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. “Everybody wanted change. Change is what they wanted and change is what they’re going to get. Whether it’s the change that will work for working families is yet to be seen.”
Stiffler said he was willing to give President-elect Trump and Gov.-elect Geitens the benefit of the doubt.
“Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt but be wary,” he said.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 President David Cook was resolute that union members, at least the vast majority of union members, will see past the falsehoods of RTW, will remain dues paying members of their unions and will send a clear and resounding message to their employers.
“We’re going to maintain a very high percentage of union membership in Missouri and particularly in the St. Louis metro area,” Cook said. “That will send a message to employers that these employees are union by choice not by mandate because they hired into a union shop. A lot of our employers thought that their employees were union because they had to be. We’re not and they’re going to see that.
“When we’re sitting down to a contract five years from now and 90 percent are still paying union members, that’s going to send a stronger message that they’re not union members because they have to be but because they want to be, and that’s going to put us in much stronger position,” Cook said.
“I actually believe that we will be stronger in 10 years than we are today because of them trying to take advantage of the workers we represent.”
‘A DIFFERENT FIGHT’
“We’ve been fighting this issue since 1978; today it’s a different fight,” said John O’Mara, business manager of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562. “What’s happened is the worst of all worlds. The attack on unions is an attack on all working men and women. A lot of people are going to be suffering.
“But we’re not going away,” O’Mara said. “We’re proud of what we do. We’ll fight every day for our jobs.”
SYSTEMATIC ATTACK ON WORKING FAMILIES
“I don’t think the 40 or so percent of our own members who voted Republican simply because they wanted change truly understand what they’ve left themselves in for,” said David Zimmermann, business manager of SMART Sheet Metal Workers Local 36.
“This is the beginning of a systematic attack, first on unions, but the results will fall on all working families, union and non-union alike, since our unions create the high-water mark for wages and benefits.
“It’s the phony ‘right-to-work’ now, but right behind that will be Missouri’s prevailing wages to drive down construction wages. And with Trump’s victory and all the dark money behind him, it will then be destroying the federal Davis-Bacon law that now ensures decent union wages on federal construction jobs.
“And for a lot of guys ready to retire, without adequate funding going into pension funds, retirements in the future will be seriously impacted.
“We’re going to get change all right, but we’re sure not going to like it!”
Impact on future elections: bad news for all Americans
For America, this election will forever change the face of American politics.
- Money will rule future elections completely. The Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that money is free speech and corporations and unions can give freely without true and full disclosure will ultimately prove to be the demise of free elections where the true will of the people is expressed. Money will buy elections, period. In the Missouri governor’s race alone, Koster and Greitens each had raised about $27 million as of Oct. 27, according to the Associated Press. When combined with fundraising from three other unsuccessful Republican primary candidates, the race total comes to more than $72 million — two and a half times the previous record of more than $28 million set in the 2008 gubernatorial campaign.
- Issues no longer matter, only the extent of candidates’ nasty, offensive negative commercials – and how much money they have to dominate TV – will matter.
- Truth died in campaign advertising. Since there is no law demanding truth-in-advertising, this election proved that distortions and outright lies, purchased with enough TV and radio airtime with dark money, work. That is a lesson every candidate learned, in spades, this election.
- Emotion rules, not logic. As President-elect Trump’s campaign conclusively proved, find the emotional hot buttons of the electorate, pursue them with dogged determination with either free or paid media exposure, and you can move the electorate. That proved out in almost every race.
- Judicial fairness, balance will be lost for generations. Once the U.S. Supreme Court could be depended on to provide honest balance for all Americans in its decisions on vital issues. No more. With as many as four potential Supreme Court justices to be named in President-elect Trump’s term, the balance of the court will tilt right, and perhaps far right, for generations to come. This is probably the most long-term significant negative impact of last week’s elections.