Missouri AFL-CIO Convention President Jake Hummel: ‘One of the best legislature sessions I can remember’

31st Biennial Missouri AFL-CIO Convention

By TIM ROWDEN
Managing Editor

MISSOURI AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel (at podium) reviewed the successes of the last legislative session and outlined the challenges ahead at the 31st Annual Biennial Convention Aug. 21-23 in Clayton, Mo. At the head table with President Hummel are (from left) Vice President Reginald Thomas (Laborers Local 264, Kansas City), Secretary-Treasurer Merri Berry (UFCW Local 655, St. Louis), St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White (Gas Workers 11-6) and Federation Office Manager Julie Dominique. – Labor Tribune photo

Clayton, MO – Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel, speaking at the state Federations 31st Biennial Convention here last week, noted this year’s legislative session was “probably one of the best sessions that I can remember that we’ve had in recent memory. We got so many things accomplished in the last two years,” adding that a lot of the good things to happen had to do with the pro-worker initiatives of the Biden Administration.

“We were able to stop some really bad stuff,” Hummel said. “For five years now, there’s been a bad ride, there’s been attacks on unemployment benefits. You’re allowed 23 weeks on unemployment in Missouri; the max you’d get is $343 a week, I believe. There’s been a bill every year to lower that. This year, it really moved. It was a priority of Senator (Mike) Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City). They wanted to lower unemployment down to eight weeks. We’re already one of the lowest states in the country for unemployment, but taking 23 weeks down to eight weeks would be extremely detrimental. We fought that all the way up to the end of the session. And we were lucky.”

“The question is whether workers’ luck will hold,” Hummel said.

“I know that Senator (Doug) Beck (D-Affton) would agree with me, this will probably be one of the first bills to come out of the gate when we get back. I don’t think they were happy with how that ended. But we’ll do our best again.”

THE FIRE FIGHTERS HONOR GUARD from St. Louis Local 73, representing the St. Louis Fire Department, opened the convention as delegates stood or the Pledge of Allegiance. – Labor Tribune photo

RIGHT-TO-WORK, PAYCHECK DECEPTION
Labor, through the leadership of the state AFL-CIO and the strength of union lobbying, was able to stop two other detrimental legislation efforts the Republican-dominated Legislature has refused to give up – so-called “right-to-work,” which voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2018, and paycheck deception.

“We’ve kept ‘right-to-work’ and a paycheck from even getting a hearing in the House or the Senate,” Hummel said.

GRAINBELT EXPRESS
“We stopped a bill to block the clean line energy project – the Grainbelt Express, which involves wind farms in Kansas distribution line across Missouri and into Illinois, dropping a lot of power in Chicago that has a $2.2 billion price tag. We have been working on that since I was in the House,” said Hummel, a former state senator and state representative. “Every year there’s a proposal to try to stop that. We finally got that through and they announced the start of the project. And because of the exceptional need or want from some major corporations for renewable energy, they announced a month ago, that they’re going to increase the size and scope of that project from $2.2 billion to $7.3 billion in construction projects across the states of Missouri, Kansas and into Chicago.”

“This was going to be 500 megawatts of power dropped in one place in Missouri. They’re now going to increase that to 2500 megawatts, and we’ll have substations across Missouri, there’ll be a ton of work on that coming up.”

TEACHERS’ PAY AND EDUCATION FUNDING
With Labor support, and years of work, the Legislature also passed a measure increasing the starting pay for public school teachers in Missouri by $12,000. “That still only puts our teachers near the middle bottom of the pay grades,” Hummel said. “But it’s something that was desperately needed.

“With rapid funding for K-12 education, including higher education, there is going to be a substantial increase in projects investing in teachers and all things school and college related.

MINIMUM WAGE
This session, the Legislature also passed a $15 minimum wage starting pay for state employees. Again, with Labor’s strong lobbying and support.

“It’s the first time in Missouri history that the Republican administration and the governor have agreed that we need a $15 minimum wage,” Hummel said. “So we’ll take that, despite the fact that they have to do it.

“You know, they all want to say pay should be market driven. Well, when the market works against them, they’re really unhappy. There were plenty of senators who didn’t want to let that pass. But they have no choice. They’re bleeding state workers left and right.

MOTOR FUELS TAX
“I want to thank you tradespeople in here for helping support the motor fuels tax increase,” Hummel said. “We haven’t had a motor fuel tax increase since 1996. If you can imagine what it cost to pave a mile of road in 1996, compared to what it cost to pave a mile of roads today, I think you would be pretty shocked. We finally got an increase 2.4 cents a gallon for four years, until it’s fully funded at about 13 cents a gallon. I know that nobody wants to talk about gas tax increase, but that’s going to provide an additional $800 million in highway and bridge construction across the state of Missouri when it’s fully funded.

“I want to thank all of you tradespeople in here for getting that passed. We talked to the Ironworkers, the St. Louis and Kansas City Laborers, Cement Masons and IBEW, and you guys all contacted your membership to call their representatives and get that done. That’s something we’ve been trying to get done for almost 25 years. So thank you guys for that.

IN ADDITION TO FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE BILL
“I thought we could be happy about that additional $800 million,” Hummel said. “And then the President and Democrats signed an additional infrastructure bill (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), you guys may have heard of it. That’s going to be an additional $8.1 billion just for the state of Missouri.

“Senator Beck (Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 and president of Missouri Building & Construction Trades Council) made a presentation down at the last Building and Construction Trades meeting on all the list of projects that are coming up. I don’t know where we’re going to find the workers. It’s going to take 10 years to go through all these projects as they’re laid out. But it’s good, it’s good to have all of that work back.

“Missouri is uniquely situated in the country for multiple reasons. The Mississippi River Valley from Minnesota, down here is the largest contiguous piece of agricultural land in the world. It’s the breadbasket to the world. There’s a lot of talk about Ukraine and how much grain is produced there, but the Mississippi River Valley provides more agricultural product of any other place in the world. Missouri has the seventh largest road system in the country. Second, we have access to ports, bridges, and rail, and most importantly, the Missouri and Mississippi River. We move goods like no one else in the country. We have to maintain that infrastructure. That is an exponential buildup for all the agricultural industry, plant sciences. you name it.

MEDICAID EXPANSION
“Now, if you ask Republicans in the Legislature what the number one industry in Missouri is, they’re going tell you it’s agriculture. It’s not. It’s not agriculture by even a small margin.

“Healthcare is the number one industry in Missouri. And I can finally and thankfully say that we have finally fully funded Medicaid expansion and additional $1.5 billion going back into our healthcare system, creating 24,000 new jobs in the healthcare field,” Hummel said. “It’s been a long time coming. You guys all have worked on that for many years. We were talking about that when I first got to the Legislature, and it’s something that you guys should all be proud of.

“It’s not always good times up there,” Hummel said of the Legislature. “But we’re going to have a good year, and we’re happy, and hopefully looking forward to continuing that.”

Highlights of the Missouri AFL-CIO’s 31st Biennial Convention

Clayton, MO – Re-election of officers, election endorsements and wide-ranging Action plans for Missouri Labor’s future highlighted State AFL-CIO convention here Aug. 21-23.

Delegates to the convention:

  • Re-elected President Jake Hummel (IBEW Local 1) and Secretary-Treasurer Merri Berry (UFCW Local 655) and the state Executive Board.
  • Approved a per capita tax increase of 15 cents per affiliate membership to support the expanded action plans approved by the convention.
  • Made key endorsements for the November elections, including endorsing Trudy Busch Valentine for U.S. Senate.
  • Urged a ‘NO’ vote on the Republican call for a Constitutional Convention to re-write the state’s constitution, opening up drastic, negative impacts on unions and all workers.
  • Supported legalization of marijuana.
  • Received a warm welcome to St. Louis County from County Executive Sam Page, endorsed for his re-election by St. Louis Labor Council COPE.
  • Initiated a plan to determine possible re-structure of the State and local Labor Council to meet future needs of a changing Labor Movement which an action resolution noted, “…the Labor Movement has changed significantly, while these structures have not…this is a moment (for) deliberate and thoughtful re-imagining of this vital infrastructure…”
  • Created a special committee to create definitive plans to enhance organizing the unorganized in Missouri.
  • Encouraged all unions to subscribe to both the Labor Tribune and the Kansas City Labor Beacon, at least initially for all their officers and stewards to “allow a constant flow of critical information to the job sites via these on-site leaders.” And as finances permit, for their entire membership.
  • Called on the Missouri Legislature to restore investments into “higher education as a priority for all working families.”
  • Supported strong climate change legislation to include requiring energy-related jobs be created in the U.S.
  • Endorsed strong support for the United Way and the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans.
  • Called for the revival of a Young Workers Program in Missouri to “foster solidarity with young workers organizing and first contract efforts, and develop partnerships with young worker advocacy groups.”
  • Strongly urged the Governor to demand the use of Project Labor Agreements to ensure “safe, cost-effective, on time construction projects” because they “have proven to be an effective way to maintain high standards of productivity, quality of work and an adequate workforce.”

 

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