Laborers endorse Wesley Bell for Congress

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By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

WESLEY BELL, St. Louis County prosecutor and candidate for Congress in Missouri’s 1st District (center), answers a question from Laborers Local 42 President Matt Andrews (left). To Bell’s left is Laborers Local 110 Government Affairs Director Clinton McBride. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis – The Missouri-Kansas Laborers’ District Council (MKLDC) has endorsed St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell for U.S. Congress in the 1st Congressional District.

Bell is running to unseat incumbent Congresswoman Cori Bush in the Democratic primary election in August.

“Wesley Bell has proven to always fight for working families. During the 2018 fight against so-called “right-to-work” legislation, Wesley took time from his own campaign to knock on doors to defeat that disastrous legislation,” stated Laborers’ District Council and Local 42 Business Manager Brandon Flinn. “Wesley is a former union member and has pledged to continue to support working families in Washington D.C. as he has done in St. Louis County.”

Bell participated in a question and answer session with members of Laborers Local 42 and 110 Feb. 8 at Local 42’s union hall, answering members’ questions about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), so-called “right-to-work,” infrastructure investments, immigration and protecting workers’ rights.

“I know what Labor has done for the protection of regular Americans and all that we enjoy. I have been an ally and will continue to be an ally,” Bell said.

“Throughout my life, I’ve consistently fought for fairness and justice, and I’ve witnessed the consequences when the wealthy and powerful aren’t held accountable. I will support legislation to further codify the right to collectively bargain and work toward eliminating ‘right-to-work’ laws. Strengthening workers’ protections is essential to ensuring a fair and just society for all, and I am dedicated to that cause.”

Asked what he would do to support workers’ rights given the far-right conservative leanings of the U.S. Supreme Court, Bell said:
“You never know what the court’s going to do as the courts change, and rules change as a result. That’s why I support for us to get standalone legislation passed to protect workers’ rights so we aren’t so susceptible as courts change. I think we’ve got to continue to not kick the can down the road but actually pass legislation strengthen workers’ rights and working conditions.”

One major piece of legislation that has languished in Congress is the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

WESLEY BELL, St. Louis County prosecutor and candidate for Congress in Missouri’s First District, participated in a question and answer session with members of Laborers Locals 42 and 110 on Feb. 8. Bell (front row, sixth from left) pledged to support legislation to further codify the right to collectively bargain, work toward eliminating so-called “right-to-work” laws and strengthen workers’ protections. – Labor Tribune photo

“We have to advocate and use our voice and push to pass legislation to strengthen worker protections,” Bell said.” This is about equity, that’s what it really comes down to. Everyone should have a seat at the table and be able to negotiate to strengthen the work conditions and worker protections, absolutely.”

MKLDC represents more than 14,000 workers including construction craft laborers, janitors, mechanics, and other public sector workers. The District council has two locals in the first Congressional District, Locals 42 and 110. Together they represent more than 5,700 workers.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND JOBS ACT
In issuing its endorsement, MKLDC said Bush had failed union laborers and working families in the 1st Congressional District by voting against the generational opportunity of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that union laborers and other union members worked hard to pass.

The law provides for $1 trillion investment in roads, bridges, transit, rail, climate change mitigation, electric vehicles, clean drinking water, high-speed internet, resilient transmission lines, and more. The bill also includes labor standards guaranteeing that the jobs created have family-supporting wages, as well as ‘buy American’ provisions that will bolster U.S. manufacturing.

Bell said Bush not only voted against the landmark legislation, but she attempted to take credit for the benefits of the legislation after the bill passed.

“That infrastructure bill had a lot in it that helps folks right here in this city, hundreds of millions of dollars coming to this district. What disappointed me even more is that once the infrastructure bill passed without her support, she puts out a release bragging about the money that’s coming, as if she was supporting it, and I think that was inauthentic.”

Bush is not focused on bringing federal dollars to St. Louis, the Laborers union said, whereas Kansas City recently received $12 billion in federal grants for new infrastructure and existing infrastructure repairs which were fought for by the Democratic Congressman from Kansas City, while St. Louis was left behind.

Bush also opposed funding for a Boeing expansion, which will create hundreds of union jobs for many years.

UNION BONAFIDES
Raised in North St. Louis County, Wesley Bell is the son of a police officer and county civil servant. His union bonafides stretch back to his grandfather who, 50 years ago, led a strike for better working conditions at the steel mill in Alton, Ill.

Bell graduated from Hazelwood East public schools, Lindenwood University, and the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. His service is rooted in first-hand experience of the challenges facing working Missourians. After graduating from law school, Wesley returned to St. Louis and worked as a public defender, where he saw a lack of common sense and fairness in the criminal justice system.

On the Ferguson City Council, Bell worked with the Department of Justice to reform Ferguson’s criminal justice system through police and court reform. Improvements included more thorough police training, implementation of officer body cams, pay raises for police, reforms to rules for how police are allowed to use physical force, and an overhaul of the city’s court system. 

In 2018, Bell was elected St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, challenging longtime incumbent Bob McCulloch in a campaign that political insiders told him he had no chance of winning. He has been a strong leader for common-sense solutions to ensure law enforcement is more effective, efficient, and accountable.

Bell says he is committed to strengthening the economy by focusing on workers and job and skills training, lowering health insurance and prescription drug costs, reinvesting in rural communities, standing up for seniors, and protecting the planet by fighting climate change.


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