By MARY ANN HOLLEY
The Missouri State Council of Machinists and District 9 hosted its 30th Annual Joint Labor Legislative Conference March 24-27 in Jefferson City, an event attended by more than 70 IAM delegates from every IAM District and Local Lodge across the state of Missouri.
Also, as in the past, several other Unions were invited and more than 130 additional delegates were in attendance from Communication Workers of America, United Auto Workers, United Steel Workers and the Service Employees International Union.
Their mission: To fight for the rights of working men and women across the state.
Guest speakers included several Machinists International Union officials and Missouri State Senator Gina Walsh, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, State Representative Ashley Bland Man-Love, and more.
THE MISSION AND THE MESSAGE
Conference delegates walked the marble halls of the Capitol, knocked on senator’s office doors, spoke with state representatives and talked with them about the importance of stopping anti-worker attacks in Missouri. Visiting both Democrat and Republican legislators, they gave their side of the argument to those who insist on pushing an anti-union agenda and laws that would hurt working families.
The biggest point taken home, however, was “They’re gunning for Unions, and we better band together and fight this movement as a group or it’s all going down the drain.”
IAM Political Director Rick De La Fuente said one example of a proposed law is what they call “The Cadillac Tax,” a tax on Union healthcare benefits.
“We’ve been fighting this for nine years. The 40 percent is set to kick in during 2022,” De La Fuente said. “I call it ‘The Family Van Tax’…To think that someone believes Missouri workers have health insurance that is too good. We want this law gone.”
CHANGE THE LEGISLATIVE LANDSCAPE TO STOP ATTACKS ON LABOR
Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Jake Hummel introduced State Senator Gina Walsh, the Democratic leader of the Senate, saying that to have a Union member in that seat is invaluable.
He said Walsh is truly a voice of Labor in a sea of anti-labor sharks.
“The good news is Greitens is gone,” Walsh said. “The bad news is that the attacks on Labor continue.”
Walsh said there are at least 10 “right-to-work” laws pending, and they (lawmakers) want to initiate a two-tier minimum wage, paying less to those under age 18 for doing the same job.
“These bills have been filed on every Labor issue,” Walsh said, “We beat them at the ballot box but they continue. We stop it by sending new people to Jeff City.”
Walsh said next year all 163 seats in the house and about half of the Missouri senate will be up for reelection.
“We have to do better. There are 226 school districts, 900 cities, and 114 counties —all with elected commissioners. Join the PTA, a fire board,” Walsh said. “The GOP thinks nothing of slamming the door in our face. We are there fighting, but we need help. Get involved. There are so many opportunities for people to serve.”
CHANGE THE FUTURE THROUGH COLLECTIVE ACTION
State Auditor Nicole Galloway said that if we’re ever going to take back our rights and stop the attacks against Labor we have to put worker-friendly people in political offices and rally together as one to make our state laws better for working men and women.
Galloway said, “Your tax dollars are being spent by people not working in your best interest.”
She said the GOP wants to take away the Sunshine Law, a law that permits open records to anyone who requests them from a political entity. Last week there were 11 bills that will try to undue the Initiative Petition that stopped “right-to-work.”
“Change the future,” Galloway said. “We need your help folks… Step up to the plate at every level. Recruit, recruit. Let’s show them a better way.”
District 9 Directing Business Representative Mark Conner said American workers are seeing collective action as the way to go when we fight for our needs.
The #MeToo Movement, Black Lives Matter, and the movements of students demanding safe schools are examples of this collective action, Conner said.
“Missouri workers made a change last year by standing together to put “right-to-work for less” in the garbage can where it belongs,” Conner said. “Unions are about more than just better wages. Unions are about everyone, union and non-union—regardless of where they are born, who they love or the color of their skin—coming together to achieve a life of dignity.”