By SHERI GASSAWAY
Brenda Davis, a Certified Nursing Assistant and SEIU Healthcare shop steward at Christian Care Home in Ferguson, has firsthand experience in fighting back against the attacks on working people.
On Dec. 1, Davis and about 90 of her coworkers at the Christian Care nursing home went on strike after contract negotiations broke down with Christian Woman’s Benevolent Association, which manages the home. After a 104-day strike bitterly cold temperatures that stretched through the holidays, workers won a new contract.
Davis, who served as strike captain during the action, shared her story to inspire other Labor union women to take action on attacks against working people at the Third Annual Women’s History Brunch hosted by the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. The event, which coincided with Women’s History Month, was held March 24.
‘READY TO FIGHT’
“You could have never told me that I’d walk in these shoes and fight so hard,” Davis told the crowd of about 200 at the CWA Local 6300 Union Hall in Maryland Heights. “We stood, we fought, we cried, we prayed and we danced, and I don’t regret one day of it. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
Davis thanked her fellow workers, her union and the many volunteers who stood on the strike line with her for their support. She also expressed gratitude to CLUW for recognizing her efforts and asked the group for its continued support.
“As a new woman in the Labor Movement, please embrace me, take me under your wing and teach me,” said Davis, who recently became a delegate to the St. Louis Labor Council. “This is unfamiliar ground for me, but I’m ready to fight.”
DEFEATING RTW (PROP A), A THREAT TO ALL WORKERS
Missouri Representative Karla May (D-St. Louis), a State Senate candidate, spoke on the subject of so-called “right-to-work” (for less), which will appear on the August or November ballot as Proposition A. (Vote NO on Prop. A to defeat RTW.)
May urged Labor union women to help spread the word about what so-called RTW really means and encouraged them to remind voters it affects all workers, not just union members.
“When I’m knocking on doors, I tell people that even if you’re not a part of a union or a Labor organization, this (RTW) is still a threat to you, because what the legislature is doing is trying to lower wages across the state,” she said. “They are trying to eliminate people’s ability to come together to fight for any issue, collective bargaining being one of them.”
Proposition A is scheduled to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, but the Missouri’s corporate-legislature is widely expected to move the election to Aug. 7, when voter turnout is traditionally lighter. To join the fight to defeat Prop. A or to donate to the campaign, visit votenoonpropa.org.
‘PAYCHECK DECEPTION,’ ANOTHER ATTACK ON WORKING PEOPLE
Natashia Pickens, president of CWA Local 6355, discussed “paycheck deception,” an attack on public sector unions currently moving through the Missouri Legislature as House Bill 1413.
Sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa), HB 1413 is a tactic to destroy public employee unions’ ability to fight for members’ rights by preventing dues check-off and forcing employees to individually authorize dues payment withdrawals every year. It would also prohibit the use of dues money for any political purpose without a written OK from each union member every time a contribution is contemplated.
The bill was approved in the House and is currently in the Senate.
“I hope you all can have more informed conversations with your coworkers about paycheck deception and help us in our fight as we help you in yours,” Pickens said. “They (corporate, anti-worker forces in the Missouri Legislature) are trying to pit us against each other. They want the public sector to be fighting the private sector unions and vice-versa and we need to stand together.”
In addition to fighting back against attacks on working people, longtime CLUW member Pam Ross stressed the importance of union women becoming politically active.
Ross said that includes registering to vote, getting friends and family registered to vote, turning out on Election Day, running for office and supporting candidates who will stand with working families.
REGISTRATION HELP AVAILABLE
To help your local register members and families, the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans (MoARA) and the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) have offered to come to any union gathering to register members and families.
At no cost to your union, organization or members, they will provide the materials, forms and manpower.
To schedule their visit, contact Earline Jones (MoARA) at 314-660-4301 or Keith Robinson (APRI) at 314-609-5878.