By TIM ROWDEN
With the successful defense of Gov. Nixon’s veto of the anti-worker right-to-work bill Sept. 16, workers across Missouri scored a victory for their future.
This was the second defeat for this terrible piece of legislation proposed by special interest groups outside Missouri and promoted by a cadre of Republicans who are willing to do the bidding of Big Business at the expense of their Missouri constituents. The first major RTW effort was defeated at the ballot box in 1978 by a three-to-one margin.
But the victory is only temporary: almost immediately after the bill was defeated, House Speaker Todd Richardson publically stated that the Republican leadership will work to craft a new bill for introduction in January that will somehow appease those 20 Republicans who voted to support working families by voting against the RTW proposal in the first place and stood strong to prevent an override on Sept. 16.
See previous story: RTW Defeated in Missouri!
And Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder openly criticized those 20 Republicans as being misguided on their politics.
“The defeat of RTW by a 96-63 vote that failed to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of this anti-worker law is a victory for Missouri’s working families everywhere,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “It is the result of thousands of phone calls, letter to legislators and door-to-door canvassing by union members who understood the danger to workers everywhere. That hard work worked!”
PRAISE ACROSS AMERICA
The Missouri defeat of RTW in face of a string of RTW successes in several states over the past few years, brought praise from across Missouri and America.
“In Missouri, lawmakers said enough is enough. And by doing that, they scored a victory for Missourians and workers everywhere,” said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“As President, I will stand up to anti-union leaders who try to make workers scapegoats in times of economic hardship. And I’ll stand with all workers and lawmakers fighting for real workers’ rights – like the right to organize, bargain collectively, be paid fairly and retire with dignity and security,” she added, noting that “When unions are strong, families are strong. And when families are strong, America is strong.
“Right-to-work laws depress wages and benefits, undercut unions, and concentrate power in the hands of corporations and their allies. They’re bad for workers, bad for the economy, and bad for America,” Mrs. Clinton stressed.
The failure of the right-to-work legislation doesn’t mean the fight is over, said Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades.
“The anti-worker legislation is going to come back whether in this form or something different like attacks on prevailing wage or paycheck deception and we’ve got to continue to education legislators on the value of the Building Trades unions so that they understand that we have a value that we bring to the taxpayers of Missouri through our training programs at no cost to the taxpayers.”
That educational effort and the coordination of all of the state’s various unions, locals and activist groups were key to defeating right-to-work, Aboussie said.
He said those efforts will continue to be essential as long as term-limited legislators on both sides of the aisle find themselves buffeted by and often oriented to special interest groups.
“Term limits have created a monster for both parties,” Aboussie said.
“We just have to continue to do what we’ve done so well this year, which is work together with every single union regardless of orientation or affiliations. I think this year showed that when we do that, when we work together as a team, the results are positive.”
EMBARRASSMENT FOR CORPORATE INTERESTS
The measure’s failure was a national setback for right-to-work proponents like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Koch Brother’s funded Americans For Prosperity, which had operatives in the Capitol on Sept. 16 trying to sway legislators.
Former Speaker of the House and 2016 Republican candidate for governor Catherine Hanaway was also working the halls.
“Those principled legislators stood up for something more important than party politics or corporate interests; they stood up for their constituents, the working people of Missouri, said State Representative Bill Otto (D-Maryland Heights).
“As Labor Chair of the Democratic Caucus, I congratulate the working families of Missouri and their representatives on sustaining Governor Nixon’s veto of the so called right-to-work bill. Given that the Republicans have a veto proof majority, it is pleasing to see a bi-partisan vote to uphold the Governor’s veto of this bill.
“For generations the ability of workers to join together and bargain collectively for fair wages and training has lifted the living standards of families everywhere in Missouri for both union and non-union workers. Unions have provided a path to the Middle Class and are essential to ensuring the prosperity of our state.
“Proponents of right-to-work legislation say those kinds of rules unfairly force workers who don’t support unions to fund them. Union defenders say such rules are necessary in collective bargaining, and that right-to-work movements are thinly veiled attempts at union-busting.”
‘A VICTORY FOR ALL
Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement on the defeat of right-to-work in the Missouri legislature:
“The vote against so-called right-to-work in the Missouri legislature is a victory for all American workers, and especially for the leaders and thousands of members of LIUNA in Missouri who rallied, wrote letters, and called their state representatives to stop this bill.
“The victory, where even a Republican majority legislature failed to override the governor’s veto, signals that the attempts to undermine unions and lower wages and working conditions, can and will be blocked.
“The tide is turning in the war against middle class Americans.
“It is by having the freedom to join together in a union that construction workers build careers, earn family-supporting pay, and stay safer on the job. It is through unions that wage disparities are reduced or eliminated.
“The Missouri legislators - both Republican and Democrat - who blocked so-called right-to-work should be commended for protecting those rights and dealing a setback to the tycoons whose vision for America is to reduce the working class to an underclass with fewer rights, fewer opportunities and dramatically increased income inequality.”
20 Republicans under attack for RTW vote
Jefferson City – Twenty Republicans sided with working families to vote against an override of Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of right-to-work legislation, and the attacks against them have already begun.
Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is running for governor in 2016, called them out in opinion piece issued after the Sept. 16 veto session.
“I happen to believe (Republicans who voted against the bill) are mistaken both on the policy and the politics of that vote,” Kinder said in an email to Alex Stuckey at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kinder added that no one should be surprised if that vote is used against (Republicans who voted against the bill) in the 2016 election cycle.
Before the veto session, David Humphreys of Joplin dumped $500,000 into a committee allegedly aimed at challenging Republican lawmakers who voted against right-to-work.
‘PETULANT AND UNBECOMING
OF A LT. GOVERNOR’
Missouri state Rep. Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs), one of 20 Republicans who sided with Gov. Jay Nixon and opposed an override of his right-to-work veto, responded to Kinder’s maligning column alleging opponents of the anti-union legislation were “joyously yukking it up and high-fiving” union members following the measure’s defeat, saying:
“Kinder lashing out in his op-ed was petulant and unbecoming of a Lt. Governor. Instead of acting like a true leader and bringing our party together, he took great pains to assail, malign and vilify those who dared to have an opinion that was different from his own. The column was purposefully written to discredit and destroy careers.”
In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Solon said: “This was a prayerful and principled decision by me and my colleagues. We knew that doing the right thing is often hard, and there was no glee or celebrating by any of us. There were no cheers, but there were plenty of tears as it was a very difficult vote.
“The Republicans who voted no in support of their districts and working families are good conservative Republicans who took a tough vote. This is a fabrication invented to defame and discredit us.”
Kinder is among several Republicans planning to run for governor in 2016. Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, who was in the Capitol for the veto session, has also announced a run, as have state Sen. Bob Dixon, state Rep. Bart Korman and former state Rep. Randy Asbury.
Given the current Republican majorities in the House and Senate, a Republican governor would almost certain assure passage of right-to-work.
$500K given to new PAC to unseat worker-friendly Republicans
The assault on worker-friendly Republicans by demagogues who want to drive workers into the ground has begun:
- A new anti-union front group named “Committee for Accountable Government in Missouri” filed paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The committee’s goal: to target Republicans who supported Gov. Nixon’s veto of the right-to-work law.
- One of the state’s most virulent anti-union contractors – David Humphreys, president and CEO of Tamko Building Products of Joplin, MO – immediately donated a half million dollars to the committee. Humphreys is known throughout the state for his anti-union sentiments. Between 2008 and 2013, according to a report by the St. Louis Beacon, Humphreys donated over $5.2 million to Republican causes, including an attempt to overthrow the Missouri non-partisan court plan. One can bet this won’t be his last contribution to try and bring RTW to Missouri.
The Missouri Times broke this story even as Humphrey tried to make his donation quietly.
Not surprisingly, the committee was formed only two days before the Sept. 16 veto session as yet another subtle threat tactic by the right wing trying to send a message to conscientious Republicans that if they vote to uphold the governor’s RTW veto, they can expect to face well-financed opposition.
“This is yet another example of big money buying votes in the Missouri legislature to hurt working families in Missouri,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis in the Times report.
And as a harbinger of why electing Chris Koster as our next governor is so important to Missouri’s working families, the Missouri Times report notes:
“Unions in Missouri have continually beat back ‘anti-labor’ laws in recent years with the help of a handful of ‘pro-labor’ Republican allies. Right-to-Work legislation represents one of the few issues that sometimes bitterly divides members of the Republican Party, with many saying that the legislation has its best chance with a Republican governor who won’t issue a veto.”
Treasurer for the new political action committee is listed as James C. Thomas III, a Kansas City lawyer. A story in 2012 published by the Sunlight Foundation, reported: “Thomas, according to this blog post from the Kansas City Star, last year served as treasurer of the Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity, a front for the payday loan industry which was fighting a ballot initiative to limit the annual rate of a short term loan at 36 percent as opposed to the 1,950 percent currently allowed.”