By TIM ROWDEN
Bridgeton, MO – International Union of Operating Engineers General President James T. Callahan visited Local 513 last month to promise the International’s help in the fight against right-to-work in Missouri and to urge members to get involved politically.
“We have to keep up the fight,” Callahan told union members while attending Local 513’s Jan. 9 union meeting. “The International will stand with you financially and with boots on the ground.
“We have to keep the people that think along the lines of the Building Trades and the Operating Engineers in office.”
Missouri legislators, as they did last year and the year before, have already filed bills seeking to establish right-to-work in Missouri, impose paycheck deception and attack the prevailing wage.
But many people don't understand the full impact of these laws and what they would do to working families.
SPREAD THE WORD
That’s where union members come in, Callahan said, they have to carry the message to their friends, neighbors and family members to help them understand what’s at stake.
“You have to be the John the Baptists of the Labor Movement,” Callahan said. “Get out and preach, explain to people what it means to be in a labor union.”
Newly elected St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger spoke at the same meeting and promised positive change in the county following organized labor’s sometimes-rocky relationship with his predecessor Charlie Dooley.
“We are going to make changes, positive changes to make sure labor is returned to the place it belongs in St. Louis County,” Stenger said.
Unions provide training, education and safety in the workplace and on the jobsite, Stenger said, ensuring projects are completed on time and often under budget “and it doesn’t take a penny of taxpayers’ or government money.”
Knowing that, Stenger asked, “Why in the world would you want to pass something to do away wit the prevailing wage or pass right-to-work in Missouri?
“I stand with you 100 percent opposing those and making sure they are not passed in Missouri,” Stenger said.
‘GET TO WORK’
At the county level, Stenger promised to streamline the process the get projects moving as quickly as possible, and to get projects completed and get people back to work.
He also spoke of the need for the St. Louis area to avail itself of its transportation infrastructure, including the Mississippi River, freight lines, highways and airport to attract businesses and get the region moving again.
“We’ve done it before, we can do it again,” Stenger said. “Let’s get to work.”
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
Missouri Attorney General and 2016 candidate for governor Chris Koster reiterated the warnings against right-to-work with a story he has told before to various audiences about the Rulo Bridge, which connects Holt County, Mo. to Richardson County, Neb. The bridge was rebuilt by both states with workers meeting in the middle.
Nebraska’s right-to-work status meant lower wages for Rulo workers.
“Two sets of workers were going to met out in the middle of the Mississippi and look each other eye-to-eye,” Koster said.
The Missouri workers on that project were making more than $31 an hour, Koster said. In Nebraska, where they are a right-to-work state, workers were set to make $8 an hour, but the contractor agreed to pay all of the workers the Missouri wage.
“That’s what right-to-work looks like if it comes rolling into the state,” Koster said. “That may be (Republican candidates for governor) Tom Schweich and Catharine Hanaway’s vision for the state, but it’s not ours.”