By TIM ROWDEN
Senior Staff Reporter
As a flurry of anti-union legislation once again winds its way through the Missouri legislature, union members need to educate themselves, reach out to their senators and representatives, and talk to their family, friends and neighbors about what these bills will do to unions and to every working person in Missouri.
“We don’t have anybody else but each other,” Gary Elliott, Business Manager for the Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council said. “They’ve got the money, but until they really rig the system they can only vote one time. They can cast one vote. We do the same. We’ve got to outnumber them.”
In other words, we need to bring union members of all crafts, faith leaders and the general public into the fight.
Laborers Local 110 started the process Feb. 27 with a public education forum, presented by representatives of the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET).
The PowerPoint presentation on “right-to-work” (for less), paycheck deception and prevailing wage, has been working its way through Laborers’ locals for the past two years, with regular updates to inform members of current legislative activity. This marks the first time the program has been shared with other crafts and the public, but not the last.
LECET is sharing the presentation with anyone who wants to be better informed. To have LECET make a presentation at your union hall, call Pat Pryor, director of LECET, at 314-291-0373.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Both General Assembly chambers are moving bills this session that seek to curb the power of labor unions.
• “Right-to-work” (for less), which is designed to weaken unions financially and inject government into contract negotiations by forcing union members to support non-union freeloaders, allowing them to get the benefits of the union contract without paying their fair share of the cost.
Studies have shown that “right-to-work” (for less) states have lower wages, less job-based health insurance coverage, higher poverty and infant mortality rates, less investment in education and high rates of death on the job.
• Paycheck deception would eliminate the ability of labor union members to use payroll deduction to pay their dues and/or impose unnecessary and burdensome paperwork requirements on voluntary contributions for political contributions, unfairly restricting unions from participating in the political process, while allowing corporations to donate at will.
• Measures to modify or do away with the prevailing wage, the pay rate that cities, counties and other governmental entities must, by law, pay for construction projects. The pay rate is calculated by the state’s labor department using voluntary wage surveys sent in by labor unions and private contractors. Under the prevailing wage, union and non-union contractors pay the same wage rate.
Prevailing wage encourages contractors to compete for government work based on skill, safety and efficiency rather than by cutting wages. In addition, it promotes the use of local labor, stabilizes local wages and industry standards, improves working conditions for all workers and prevents unfair or unregulated bidding practices.
The Missouri House recently passed legislation that would allow some school districts to exempt themselves from the prevailing wage requirement for construction and maintenance projects. House Bill 34, sponsored by State Representative Casey Guernsey (R, Bethany), will open the door to cut-rate contractors taking jobs away from skilled Missouri workers. The bill is now before the Missouri Senate.
‘WE CAN’T TALK TO THE CHOIR ANYMORE’
The program at Laborers’ Local 110 hall drew a crowd of more than 100 people, including representatives from the ironworkers, retail clerks, teamsters, painters, carpenters, workers not in unions, community leaders, representatives of the Missouri AFL-CIO and Working America, and many others.
Five different unions have since approached the Laborers about doing the same presentation in their halls.
“We can’t talk to the choir anymore,” Don Willey, business manger for Laborers Local 110 said. “We have to get out to the public. We want to get this message out to other unions who want it, faith organizations and the public.
“When it’s explained to people, I would say 90 percent are in agreement that we don’t want ‘right-to-work.’ We don’t want paycheck deception. And prevailing wage is a good thing.
LISTEN IN, BE SURPRISED
In addition to learning what these bills are and what’s at stake, one way to stay informed is to listen to live Senate and House debates, so you can hear firsthand what your legislators are doing.
To listen to live debate in the House or Senate, go to www.senate.mo.gov; find the heading for “Live Debate” on the right hand side of the page. Click on “Senate” or “House” to listen to debate in that chamber. What you hear might surprise you.
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS
Union leaders are urging everyone to call or write their senators and representatives to voice their opposition “right-to-work” (for less), paycheck deception and bills that would undermine or do away with the prevailing wage. These anti-union, anti-worker measures will hurt every working person in Missouri.
To find out whom your legislators are:
First, go to www.usps.com, then on the left side of the page click on “Look up a Zip Code.” Enter your address, and it will give you your zip code + 4.
Next, go to www.senate.mo.gov, and under “Legislator Lookup” on the left side of the page enter your zip code + 4 and it will show you all of your elected officials along with their address and contact information.
You can also call your senators by dialing 1-888-907-9711. Listen to Missouri AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey’s message then, enter your five-digit zip code to be automatically connected with the senator for your area. Tell them you are a registered voter in their district and that you strongly oppose these measures.