A law that ultimately makes wages worse will make it worse for everyone
The need for Democrats and labor unions to work together to help educate their own friends, neighbors, members and co-workers — and Republicans who will listen to reason — about the critical issues facing working families was the focus of a first of several educational forums held recently in St. Louis County.
The purpose of the meeting was to help activist Democrats understand the key issues facing organized labor, issues which impact not only union members and families, but ALL working Missourians regardless of whether or not they are union members.
“We all need to be messengers that this attack on unions is an attack on everyone who lives in Missouri,” said Jeff Aboussie, St. Louis Building Trades Council executive secretary-treasurer, one of the three panelists outlining labor’s issues.
“The clergy, the small businessman, educators, everyone needs to understand that this assault on unions is an assault on everyone; they must become messengers to educate others as to the dangers we all face.”
MORE MEETINGS TO COME
Sponsored by the St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee, this was the first of a series of meetings to be held throughout the county in the coming months to help educate rank-and-file Democrats about labor issues and the efforts to castrate unions that will be made in the next session of the Missouri legislature, said Committee Chairman Matt Robinson, a member of Sprinkler Fitters 268 and mayor of Hazelwood, in opening the session.
As labor unions are like the central nervous system of the Democratic Party, it’s the key reason the right-wing Republicans controlling both houses of the State Legislature are so intent on destroying the union movement in Missouri, one guest told the Labor Tribune.
Discussing issues on the panel were Missouri State Senator and President of the Missouri State Building Trades Council Gina Walsh, Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Mike Louis and Aboussie.
‘DON’T BE FOOLED’
“Don’t be fooled that we were successful in stopping the assault of labor this past session,” Walsh warned, noting that one prominent Republican came up to her after the last legislative session in which most anti-labor bills were defeated and said, “…it’s not over, we’ll be back next year… and we will be successful.”
The anti-worker, anti-union forces in the legislature “will be back next year even stronger,” she cautioned.
Walsh made the point that in the last session 25 anti-worker bills were introduced; 21 one them were pro forma bills created by the radical right, anti-worker ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) funded by extremist, right-wing Koch brothers and 300 of the Fortune 500 companies.
“The Republicans didn’t even know what the bills really do, they had no idea, but ALEC gave them the bills, and money for their campaigns, so they were introduced,” she said.
Tragically, she added, to many of our own children who went to college on the money their union parents earned at good paying union jobs, those kids don’t understand the issues and are not standing with us.
Louis took a step back and made the point clearly that there are a number of Republicans who do indeed understand the issues and are supporting labor’s issues, voting against the radical element in their own party, “not necessarily on social issues, but certainly on our core issues,” because they understand that value that labor unions bring to the state’s economy.
He also pointed out that many Republicans simply do not understand the issues and the real impact on workers and the state’s economy. “We have to take the time to educate them, and that’s everyone’s responsibility.”
The big problem, he added, that we face in Missouri is the super majorities the Republicans hold in both the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate.
“We have to do something about that” if Missouri is to stop its anti-worker onslaught. “Thank God for Governor Jay Nixon and his veto power. If it wasn’t for that, we’d be seeing every evil issue become law in Missouri.”
EVERY WORKER GAINS
Aboussie explained to the some 75 attending the issue of the anti-worker, phony right-to-work (for less) law is little more than an effort to strip unions of the financial ability to fight for workers.
“Remember, when union workers gain a benefit, every worker gets that benefit, so non-union workers benefit as well.”
He explained that the law injects government into the relationship between an employer and his employees. “Even if the company believes working with a union is in their best interests – and there are a lot that do – this law would prevent them from agreeing to have all his employees belong to a union and prevent the union and the company from working together.”
The phony law would allow someone getting representation from the union in terms of pay, benefits and support to decide to not pay union dues or even a fair share fee if they didn’t want to be a union member.
Aboussie made the point: to belong to the Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Bar Association or any group, members are required to pay dues to get the benefit of the organization.
“Under federal law, the union has to represent all workers so it will mean spending the dues money of members to support and fight for the rights of non-members if the right-to-work (for less) becomes law.
This is nothing more than a right-to-worse law because history proves that it lowers wages across the board and makes it worse, not only for union members, but all workers. That means things get worse for the doctor, the grocer, the florist, the cleaners – the entire economy.
“Remember, union families are spenders,” Aboussie stressed. “They spend their paychecks and that goes into the local economy and everyone benefits. The reverse is true: worse wages means a lot worse business for local businesses and the entire economy suffers. Less money means worse schools, worse local services and so much more.”
Pat Kammer, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 513, commented that we have to fight these issues when they come up, not look to make some level of compromise and then hope to “fix” an issue in a future legislature, noting the compromise made on a prevailing wage change passed this past session that involves maintenance.
“We don’t want to pick a fight, but the other side — too many who are not so honorable — need to know we are ready to fight,” he said to applause.
“This is not just an effort to come after the unions, it’s an effort to cripple the middle class, to turn back the clock, to make slaves of the 99 percent for the benefit of the 1%,” Aboussie said.