Kansas City—Congresswoman JoAnne Emerson, the Republican who opened doors for organized labor to engage other state officials at the state capital, got a rousing welcome and round of applause from union leaders at the Missouri AFL-CIO convention.
Emerson, who represents the 8th Congressional District, which includes Cape Girardeau, the Bootheel and most of the Ozarks, is the only Republican in Missouri’s congressional delegation to obtain an official COPE endorsement.
That’s because she is against right-to-work laws and supports major federal programs such as the federal prevailing wage law and Project Labor Agreements on federal construction projects.
When state AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey introduced her, he said she had been helpful to Labor throughout her career and thanked her for “opening the doors for us to Republicans in the state legislature.”
It was with Republican support in the House of Representatives, and especially in the state senate this year that Labor was able to stop a so-called right-to-work (for less) proposal headed for the state ballot.
After Emerson paved the way with a few important introductions such as House Speaker Steve Tilley, Labor lobbyists were able to garner up to 25 GOP representatives to oppose bills that would have weakened organized labor in the state. Tilley saw to it that a right-to-work (for less) bill never got out of committee.
In the senate, a small minority of Democrats was able to persuade a dozen Republican senators to join them in opposing right-to-work and another bill that would have weakened the state’s prevailing wage law.
Emerson told the delegates that supporting organized labor was a continual challenge for her, because “many of my constituents are against right-to-work. They are against Davis-Bacon (prevailing wage law) and PLAs (Project Labor Agreements) because they think they make construction projects more expensive.”
“But I believe right-to-work is wrong for our state!” she declared to thunderous applause from the 250 standing delegates who clapped their hands and cheered for over a minute.
Emerson said she didn’t support Labor’s position on all issues, but she believed firmly in the core values of unions to assure working people of the right to organize and to get good wages and benefits.
She said she is working with a small group of other Republicans in the House of Representatives to promote a more moderate stance on issues.
She challenged union leaders to reach out to nonunion Americans to get a better understanding of why they think and believe in what they do. She said getting an understanding of the other side of an issue has been a valuable help to her in her career in Congress.