By TIM ROWDEN
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka kicked off the Federation’s Labor 2018 campaign at Laborers Local 42 in St. Louis June 24, rallying hundreds of union members from 30 different unions for a day of action to defeat Proposition A (“right-to-work”) by going door-to-door urging voters to protect their pay by voting NO on Prop A.
“Prop A will lower wages,” Trumka said. “Prop A will destroy jobs. Prop A will increase poverty. Prop A will make pay even less equal for working women. Prop A is designed and intended to undermine our collective voice on every issue that is important to working people and we’re not having any of it!”
Last summer, working people throughout the state collected 310,567 signatures –– more than three times the number needed to put Prop A (RTW) on the ballot for voters to decide after the corporate-baked bill was passed by the Missouri Legislature and signed into law by Missouri’s disgraced former governor Eric Greitens. Corporate-owned lawmakers in the Missouri Legislature tried to thwart the effort by moving the vote on Prop A to Aug. 7, when traditionally fewer voters turn out to the polls. But workers all over the state are hitting the streets again, talking to voters and urging them to Vote NO on Prop A.
“They want us to sit down and shut up!” Trumka said. “That’s why they moved the vote up to August, they think that we’re going to stay home! Well, I have news for them, this is the summer of workers and we’re going to prove the haters wrong by voting not only ‘No’ but ‘HELL NO’ on Aug. 7.
‘WE DON’T WANT IT!’
“When we come together, when we lock arms and make up our mind to go in one straight and focused direction, we have the power,” Trumka said.
“We’re joining together, we’re fighting together and we are winning together. We’ve got to keep it up. Because the next big fight is coming quick and it is right here in Missouri. And it is the same people waging a corporate-funded assault on working freedom at the Supreme Court. They’re here. They’ve targeted Missouri for decades. You have the scars to prove it. And on Election Day we’re going to Vote NO on Prop A. We’re going to show them that RTW is dead in Missouri! We don’t want it! We want a voice!”
RTW was last on the ballot in Missouri – and soundly defeated – in 1978. That victory 40 years ago remains the only time that the anti-worker legislation has ever been defeated by voters, until this Aug. 7 when Missouri workers will have another chance to say NO to lower wages, NO to fewer benefits, NO to unsafe working conditions, inadequate health coverage and reduced opportunities for retirement by voting NO on Prop A.
“We need you to do door knocks,” Trumka said. “We need you to do phone banks. We need you to talk to friends, talk to family, pester your neighbors. We defeated this abomination in 1978 and we’re going to defeat it even more soundly in 2018!”
A PRO-WORKER WAVE
“A victory in August can set the table for a pro-worker wave this fall,” Trumka said, referencing the AFL-CIO’s Labor 2018 campaign.
“We’re unleashing the largest and most strategic member-to-member political program in our history, sparking change by doing what organizers do best, and that’s talking to each other, getting people going in the same direction, street-by-street, person-to-person. We’re having conversations about the issues that matter the most to us – higher wages, better benefits, time off, a secure retirement and a fair return on our labor.
“Each of you are on the front lines of a revolution!” Trumka said.
SO OUR KIDS CAN HAVE A FUTURE!
Looking out into the crowded hall at Laborers Local 42, where several children and infants rested on the parents’ laps, Trumka said: “I want to give a special shout out to parents that brought their children here. Because, quite frankly, that’s exactly who we’re walking for, who we’re fighting for, who we’re door knocking for and why we’re going to vote NO – so those kids can have a future! So those kids can stand proud! So those kids can have kids that have an America that they’re proud of!”
THE PATH TO PROSPERITY
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, and a member of Machinists District 9, took the microphone with a simple question.
“What are you doing Aug. 7?” he asked the crowd.
“Voting NO on Prop A!” they shouted enthusiastically.
“About a year ago we were in almost this exact same situation collecting signatures,” Louis said, recalling the long, hot fight to get Prop A on the ballot.
“We were fighting then. They did everything they could to keep us from being successful in getting this on the ballot…. They told us we had to collect 120,000 signatures. And you know what happened then? We got three times what we needed and we got them in every single county and every congressional district in this state!… You took your union brothers and sisters, you went out on the streets, you collected signatures, you went door-to-door, you worked the phone banks, you dropped literature at your plants, you dropped literature at your worksites and we did it.
“Now, 310,567 signatures later, here we are.
“Are we going to let our energy fall off now? Or are we going to show
these people that we work with the path to prosperity in Missouri? That’s what we’ve got to do.”
A FIGHT FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS
Senator Jake Hummel, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO and a member of IBEW Local 1, reflected on last summer’s signature gathering campaign and one retired worker who approached him at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia and told how, though the plant he worked in was non-union, they got the same raises and health care benefits as the other union plants the company owned.
“There’s a lot of people out there that know that the wages that union members make reflects in what happens to people that don’t’ have unions,” Hummel said. “This fight is not just about us or our wellbeing. This is a fight for the middle class not just in the state of Missouri but in the whole county.
“Every day, it seems like things get a little harder, harder to make ends meet. Just imagine if you didn’t have your union there to help you through those issues. If you didn’t have your union there to advocate for better wages and better health insurance and a retirement.
“The eyes of the Labor Movement are on Missouri right now,” Hummel said. “This is the fight around the country for Organized Labor, and I know we can do it. Because do you know the last time that RTW was defeated at the ballot? It was in Missouri in 1978. The buck stopped then and we’re doing to do it again this year!”
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, urged union members to make the fight personal and prove that boots on the ground can beat back the dark money corporate interests like TAMKO CEO David Humphreys, the billionaire businessman who bought the legislators and governor who delivered RTW.
One of the best ways to do that, he said is to text Repeal RTW to 97779 to get updates on canvassing and phone bank opportunities, and to follow the campaign on Facebook @VoteNoOnPropA, Twitter @NoOnPropA or Snapchat @VoteNoOnPropA.
“Get out on social media and let your people know,” White said. “Get it on your Facebook page, get it on Snapchat and Twitter.
“Make this fight personal, because I’m telling you, we need everybody. We need everybody out there to get out. You need your neighbors out there. You need your folks out there. You need your grandkids out there. Everybody needs to make this about the personal decision about how this is going to affect you. Because everybody in the whole state is going to make $8,000 less a year if this doesn’t get overturned.
“Make this a personal fight about you and your friends and make sure you get out and help at least a couple of times in the next six weeks.”