Labor News From Our Region
Missouri union members rally at the State Capitol to oppose RTW, protect wages, safety and pension benefits
By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – Union members from throughout Missouri traveled to State Capitol March 28 to voice their opposition to the phony “right-to-work” –– which will appear on the August or November ballot as Proposition A and will do nothing to create jobs or to protect worker wages, safety requirements and pension benefits.
The “Paychecks Over Politics” rally was hosted by the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council.
State Senator Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), Council president and a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1, told union members gathered for the rally across from the Capitol building, where renovation work is currently under way, “It doesn’t matter when they vote on Prop. A, we will be there! I’m depending on each and every one of you to make that happen!
“Right now, union workers and our families – our families – are under attack,” Walsh said. “We told them in ’78 that we didn’t want ‘right-to-work.’ They’re back again. They are going to be back every year. But we are going to send a clear message to these folks come election time.
“Prop. A wants to tear down what we built,” Walsh said. “Prop. A means lower wages, fewer rights and less protection for your family.
“We’ve got to knock on doors. We’ve got to make calls. We have to get the vote out. We have to get our kids registered. We have to have our kids and our parents and everyone we know knocking on doors, educating people, telling them about this issue.”
OPPOSITION CIRCULATING PRO-RTW PETITIONS
Walsh also warned union members about the paid pro-RTW petitioners trying to trick voters into signing their petition by implying it’s for collective bargaining rights. It’s not. The petition union members and working family volunteers circulated, collecting 310,567 signatures to put RTW (Prop. A) on the ballot for voters to decide already addressed that.
What these paid petitioners are circulating is a RTW Constitutional Amendment to confuse voters and get them to enshrine RTW in the state constitution.
“Do not sign anything until you read it,” Walsh said. “I’m all for our rights and our abilities to get something on the ballot, but read what they’re putting in front of you.”
CALLING OUT PHONY POPULISTS
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill gave the keynote address, thanking union members for their long support.
McCaskill is being challenged in the general election by Republican first-term Attorney General Josh Hawley, with backing from Gov. Eric Greitens and RTW backer David Humphreys, the CEO of Joplin-based TAMKO Building Products who donated millions to elect Greitens, Hawley and pro-RTW Republicans in the Missouri Legislature.
Humphreys and members of his family gave nearly $4 million to Hawley’s campaign for attorney general, presumable to curry Hawley’s favor and intervention in a class action suit TAMKO is facing under the state’s Merchandising Practicing Act.
“Today is a day that we are going to take a stand for Missourians, for those who work standing on their feet and with their hands,” McCaskill said. “Today is the day to call out fake populists… a guy with an Ivy League education that rides into office on the back of one of the richest men in Missouri who has made it his life’s work to destroy labor unions in the state of Missouri.
“Imagine raising 75 percent of the money you used to get elected from one guy… The guy who has led the effort to destroy labor unions in the state of Missouri.
“It is the labor unions of this state that have made the middle-class work,” McCaskill said. “Only an elitist would think it is a good idea to remove power from the worker. Only somebody who was looking at giving money to shareholders and not money to families would be in favor of removing the power of the worker. The problem is not just Prop. A. The problem is who owns that building right now,” as she pointed to the Capitol.
And that, she added, is why union members and working Missourians need to turn out not only to defeat Proposition A, but to elect worker-friendly candidates in November.
‘THEY’VE AWOKEN A SLEEPING GIANT’
Defeating Prop. A is only the first step, said Senator Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), a member of IBEW Local 1 and secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, but it is a must-win. Because if working Missourians fail, if RTW becomes the law of the land, it will open the floodgates on other anti-worker legislation in Missouri.
“We have to defeat Proposition A, that’s our job now. And we cannot fail,” Hummel said. “Because if we do, the people in this building, the people who want to take away our rights and cut our pay and give our jobs to someone else, they won’t let up. They won’t stop. They’ll keep coming back for you, your family, your family’s way of life.
“But you know what? You know what they haven’t realized? They’ve awoken a sleeping giant. And that giant is pissed off! We’re not going to stop fighting for what we believe in. We’ve got to get to work. We’ve got to knock those doors. We’ve got to make those phone calls. We’ve got to talk to our neighbors, our families, our friends. We beat this thing in 1978 – our retirees that are here today – but this is our time now, and we’re not going to let you down.”
RTW and other anti-worker legislation moving through the state legislature has one root source – dark, unaccounted for, money.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the only Democrat to currently hold statewide office, has been a thorn in the side of corrupt government officials since winning election in 2016. Her audits have resulted in more than 30 criminal charges.
“I hold government and public officials accountable to the people that they represent,” Galloway said. “And what is going on in your state government is profoundly troubling, and what is at the root of it is the corrupting influence of secret dark money.
“Gov. Eric Greitens has sought and accepted millions in contributions from sources that are anonymous to everyone except for him. Why must these donors insist on secrecy and why must Greitens so fiercely protect it? It’s because policy change and influence is being bought in the shadows.”
Galloway comes from a union family. Her great grandfather worked on the Gateway Arch as a member of Operating Engineers Local 513, and she has numerous uncles, cousins and other family members who are also members of Local 513.
“Earlier this year, in the course of just one month, Eric Greitens funneled more than $1.1 million from his dark money group to fight against you, to fight for Prop. A,” Galloway said. “One of the people raising money for his legal defense – another dark money group – helped lead the multi-million-dollar effort to pass the constitutional effort in Michigan that made it ‘right-to-work.’ Make no mistake, this governor is ready and willing to use his dark money, from secret donors, to ensure Missouri becomes a RTW state.
“The insiders who want to make Missouri ‘right-to-work’ have a super majority in the legislature and a partner in the governor’s office,” Galloway said. “This governor answers to his millionaire donors. They are committed to the idea that if you just reduce the wages paid to working people, we’ll all be better off. Think about that. If you make less in your paycheck, you will be better off. I don’t think so.”
And the best way to say “No,” Galloway said, is at the ballot box.
“We have to be ready for what we are up against, a dark money machine funded by secret millionaires and billionaires that want to break you and break your organizations. But we’re going to win the old-fashioned way with regular people giving everything they have for what they stand for and what they believe in. Enough is enough!”