First, kudos to the thousands of workers and friends of unions and our local and state leadership for the incredible outpouring of time, effort and funds to make this victory possible. We have not seen this kind of total unity since the 1978 RTW campaign when we defeated this terrible law with a 60 percent majority.
But we made a mistake after that victory.
The United Labor Committee that led the charge in 1978 quickly dissipated as everyone relished the victory, then quickly went their own ways. It was understandable, but regrettable.
Let’s learn from that mistake. We have built an incredible coalition with We Are Missouri. We need to keep it alive because this is only the first step in our effort to permanently defeat this anti-worker, pro-business law and reclaim our corporate-owned Missouri Legislature from the billionaires and business interests who brought this battle to our door.
THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce is already hinting that the legislature might bring RTW up again next year, only this time as a constitutional amendment.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in a “Vote NO” editorial published just before Election Day, revealed that the Chamber leadership, meeting with the paper’s editorial board, made two telling points:
• First, Chamber President Dan Mehan was asked “point-blank whether he would accept the voters’ decision or back a legislative override attempt if Prop A is rejected. Mehan would not commit to respect the will of the people.”
In other words, the voice of the people doesn’t mean a damn thing to the Chamber, or the legislators it controls.
• Second, the editorial continued: “Workers should be asking what they stand to gain in their pocketbooks by approving Prop A. The answer from the Chamber of Commerce is this: nothing. Mehan and Matthew Panik, the Chamber’s vice president of governmental affairs, acknowledged that voting yes on Prop A wouldn’t necessarily yield higher wages, despite proponents’ claims.”
In fact, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows in states with so-called “right-to-work” workers actually have LOWER wages.
NEXT STEP: CHANGE THE BALANCE
Knowing business groups will continue to push RTW; knowing that some legislators have already said they plan to reintroduce RTW, our next step is evident.
This November, we must change in the balance of power in the Missouri House and Senate to ensure Republicans, who now hold an overwhelming majority in both chambers, can’t simply do as they please with our paychecks.
That applies not only to the Missouri Legislature, but to the U.S. House and Senate.
Our goal must be balance, and we have work to do to get there, to ensure honest debate and compromise, to ensure the voice of Missouri’s workers, so clearly expressed Aug. 7 are not only heard, but listened to.
After the 1978, victory we enjoyed nearly 40 years of “peace” because we had a balanced legislature. When Democrats were in control, RTW couldn’t raise its ugly head. When Republicans started gaining control earlier this decade, the margins were narrow, requiring both parties to work together. But as the GOP majority grew to a super veto-proof majority, fair discussion and debate of many bills – in particular, RTW – went out the window.
If Meehan’s prediction is true, and I think it is (GOP Reps. Holly Rehder of Sikeston and Bill White of Joplin have already said they plan to bring RTW up again), then once again, they will attempt to silence the voice of we the voters in favor of the big money donors who pull all the strings.
We can’t let that happen.
Working people won a major battle last week, but to win the war, we must be organized. We have carry the energy and enthusiasm of our campaign on to November and vote out the corporate-owned legislators who are more beholden to their donors than the working people of Missouri.
Let’s cherish our victory for a week or so, then get back to work. We have the coalition now to get this done.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Defeating Prop A was the first step.