President Bob Soutier cautions against losing focus
By TIM ROWDEN
Pat White, the president-elect of the St. Louis Labor Council, won’t officially take office until Jan. 20, but when retiring President Bob Soutier asked him to say a few words at last month’s delegates meeting, it was clear he has been thinking about the challenges ahead.
White, a business representative for Gas Workers Local 11-6 (and a 26-year union member) has been an active lobbyist for Local 11-6 and the Missouri AFL-CIO in Jefferson City for more than nine years and minced no words about the upcoming legislative session.
“We got our butts handed to us in November,” White said. “The killer bills have already been filed.”
Those “killer bills” include measures to require bargaining unit elections ever two years (HB 46, HB 127, SB 126) five right-to-work bills (HB 47, HB 48, HB 116, HJR 2, SB 127) a measure to weaken the prevailing wage (HB 69, SB 128) and a paycheck deception measure (SB 129).
“I hope it’s not as bad as it seems,” White said ultimately.
Looking ahead, White called on Organized Labor to get involved in rebuilding Ferguson, following this year’s unrest, and reaching out to minorities throughout the St. Louis area to help them identify work opportunities and the benefits of a union contract.
“A lot of the internationals want the Labor Movement to get involved up there,” White said.
“I think one thing we can all agree to as a Labor Movement is we need to start getting to these kids when they’re younger and teaching them there are good paying jobs out there.
“The people who deliver your mail are union, along with United Parcel Service, who are Teamsters. The people who check out your groceries are union. I don’t think these kids realize that.”
OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE
One example of the good union jobs White noted is the recent announcement by Boeing that it would make parts for the new 777X airliner at its defenses works in north St. Louis County – creating up to 700 jobs when production is in full swing.
The move will also bring construction jobs as Boeing expands its North County composite materials facility.
These aren’t jobs that kids off the street could walk into tomorrow, White said.
“They would need to be trained,” he said. “But we can let them know those opportunities are out there.”
‘WE’RE ALL WE’VE GOT’
Outgoing President Bob Soutier, who is staying on as a special advisor through April 1, cautioned delegates to remain focused, and keep their locals and their members focused on the challenges ahead.
“A lot of people kind of lose their way sometimes,” Soutier said. “They get frustrated and they get angry at what’s going on around them. But the people in this room right here, I don’t know if you realize it or not, but we’re all we’ve got.”
It’s not enough to carry a union card and pay your dues, Soutier said.
“You need to stand up for your union, and with your union. Get involved in your union; go to the meetings. Our strength is in our numbers. We’ve proven that time and time again.”
‘WE’RE A BIG FAMILY’
“Sometimes we lose our way because it’s hard,” Soutier said. “It’s hard to be that guy out on the picket line.
“They’re going to try to get you mad, mad at each other, mad at your politicians, mad at your business reps, but don’t fall for that.
“We’re a big family, that’s why we call each other brother and sister.”