By ED FINKELSTEIN
In a masterstroke of hypocrisy, Gov. Eric Greitens’ State of the State speech Jan. 10 stressed the need to support Missouri’s working families and provide quality education and services to those most in need, despite the deliberate actions of his administration to produce exactly the opposite impact.
And he had the gall to call on legislators to pass a law eliminating lobbyist gifts while totally ignoring the more corrupting influence of secret money flowing into multiple secret committees that don’t have to name their donors. The governor himself is the biggest benefactor of this flaw, so we know why he simply ignored it.
To make it even easier for the lobbyists and secret money to control legislators, as is now the case, Greitens called for term limits for all state officer holders. While “term limits” sounds wonderful, it’s a serious flaw that forces experienced legislators out and brings in a flood of inexperienced newbies who are easily and effectively influenced by lobbyists, making the lobbyists even more influential for their special interest paymasters.
The governor talks about supporting working people, but his actions don’t match his promises:
• Pushing for the phony “right-to-work” law last year, the governor said it was needed to increase jobs. However, in his speech he bragged “there are more manufacturing jobs in our state than a year ago...Missouri has the lowest unemployment rate it’s had in 17 years.”
• He said RTW was needed to make Missouri attractive to businesses. Yet, in his speech he bragged, “Since last March, we have outpaced the nation in job growth and Missouri moved up nine spots in the rankings of the best states in the country to do business.”
Then he added: “We are moving Missouri in a new and better direction.” Really? What could be better than outpacing the nation in job growth?
• He killed minimum wage increases in St. Louis, approved by the Board of Aldermen, and in Kansas City, approved by voters, actually lowering wages for 30,000 working people in St. Louis and taking away the right of Missouri voters to raise the wages in their cities.
• He banned Project Labor Agreements for local governments that ensure a safe, trained workforce on public construction projects like schools, roads and bridges by guaranteeing quality, on-time work on a tight budget, and protect the public investment by weeding out unqualified contractors and keeping projects on schedule, with fewer injured workers and no strikes or work disputes.
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MORE ANTI-WORKER EFFORTS
Not only has the governor and his Republican supporters turned their backs on workers, they are pushing for more:
• To destroy or substantially weaken Prevailing Wage laws that ensure (1) all construction workers on a job get a fair wage, (2) men and women are paid the same wage, and (3) construction jobs go to Missouri contractors and their workers. Without having to pay prevailing wage, history has shown that fly-by-night contractors will flood in with cheap wages to underbid local companies and import their own workers.
• Implement RTW legislation and force union families to lose money in their paychecks. Greitens’ secretive dark money group “A New Missouri” has already donated $1.1 million to political action committees formed to push RTW in this year’s election.
• Kill public employee unions by forcing them to hold representation elections every year, and allowing non-members to vote in those elections.
• Introduce Paycheck Deception for public employees that would restrict unions’ political spending to support worker-friendly candidates, while leaving corporations free to spend freely.
• Downplay the importance of education by cutting state funding for public schools, community colleges and universities, despite the governor’s call for “strategic investments in education....”
GOVERNMENT OFF OUR BACKS?
One of the governor’s more hypocritical statements: “For Missouri to prosper, we need to get government off our backs” totally ignores that RTW does just the opposite.
RTW injects government into the collective bargaining process banning union-represented businesses from negotiating labor contracts that ensure workers will either pay dues or a smaller “fair share” fee to cover the union’s cost of bargaining and representation. Telling a business what they cannot negotiate in agreement with a union is government intervention at its worst.
PLAYING ON EMOTIONS FOR POLITICAL COVER
The governor spent most of his speech talking about the real need for Missouri to provide more support for foster kids, first responders and the National Guard.
These made great emotional props in a weak speech, but with little positive action expected as the governor prepares to propose a budget with “the boldest state tax reform in America,” tax cuts that will further exacerbate Missouri’s ability to provide support to those who need it.