Members urged to turn out in November, restore balance to the Missouri legislature
By TIM ROWDEN
As one of its first orders of business at the Missouri AFL-CIO's 27th Biennial Convention in St. Louis, delegates unanimously endorsed Attorney General Chris Koster as the Democratic candidate for Missouri governor.
The 200 delegates applauded Koster’s efforts on behalf of working people across the state throughout his career.
“This is a man who has shown true leadership,” said David Cook, president of UFCW Local 655 in seconding the Koster nomination made by Kansas City Labor Council President Pat Dujakovich. “Chris Koster is a man of his word, a man of honor, a man of actions, not pious statements. He is a man who can be trusted to act in the best interests of all Missourians.
Explaining that he changed parties in 2007 and became a Democrat because he could not stand by and watch his then Republican colleagues continue to pass laws that crushed the average working Missourian to make things better for the 1%, Koster said, “I could no longer take what the Republicans stand for.”
As a senator first, and then as attorney general, Koster has fought for preservation and enforcement of prevailing wage laws andagainst right-to-work efforts. Noting that corporate profits as a percentage of the entire economy are now higher than since before the Great Depression while wages as the same percentage are at their lowest level in 60 years, Koster said the Republican prescription to take Missouri forward is to exacerbate that problem by taking corporate profits higher and wages lower.
“We have to raise up the Middle Class if Missouri is to grow and its residents prosper,” Koster said. “I promise you that as long as I’m in public office, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to deliver to this state the future and greatness our citizens deserve.”
LOUIS, HUMMEL ELECTED TO LEADERSHIP POSTS
The delegates also unanimously elected Mike Louis (Machinists Dist. 9) as President of the State Federation and House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (IBEW Local 1) as Secretary Treasurer.
Louis, former secretary-treasurer, had been serving as Secretary-Treasurer since July, filling the unexpired term of President Hugh McVey following the announcement of his retirement.
Louis played a critical role in the defeat of right-to-work and paycheck deception measures during this year’s legislative session, guiding the development of a bipartisan coalition to stand up for the interests of working families.
“Words cannot describe the appreciation I feel to be bestowed with the obligation to move the working family agenda forward during these trying times,” Louis said.
Continuing to build relationships on both sides of the aisle in Jefferson City to “help Missouri prosper while protecting and allowing all of Missouri’s working families to prosper as well will remain the top priority of the Missouri AFL-CIO,” he said.
Hummel, who has served as House Minority Leader since 2012, and one of the loudest pro-labor voices in the Missouri House, was Louis’ first choice as predecessor.
Delegates gave a standing ovation to former St. Louis Labor Council President Bob Kelley, who led the fight against right-to-work in 1978, and recognized retiring Labor Council President Bob Soutier for his leadership over the past nine years.
FIGHTING FOR EQUALITY
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave a moving speech on racism, the labor movement, attacks on working families and inequality in America.
“The far right is trying to divide us in many ways,” Trumka said. “But, here in in America, the power and dignity of working people will always win – as long as we stay united.”
Trumka and Louis pledged to help the city of Ferguson in the wake of the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the unrest and underlying problems that incident exposed in the city.
(Find full coverage and a video of the speech at www.labortribune.com)
FIGHTING FOR WORKING PEOPLE
Key political leaders, including Gov. Jay Nixon and Secretary of State Jason Kander, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, U.S.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democratic nominee for County Executive Steve Stenger and State Sen. Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), president of the Missouri State Building & Construction Trades Council, addressed the delegates.
Nixon announced the start of a new shift, and the addition of 750 jobs, at the GM Wentzville plant as an example of how Missouri is rebuilding the American auto industry, and creating new union jobs to bolster the state’s economy, even as the middle class and unions are under attack.
“At a time when more and more dollars are in the hands of fewer and fewer people, fighting for the rights of working people has never been more important,” Nixon said.
‘GET OFF YOUR SEAT’
Hummel introduced McCaskill with an acknowledgement of her commitment to working Missourians.
“We owe her a lot,” Hummel said. “At every turn, she has our back.”
Sen. McCaskill minced no words, leading her comments with an explanation of the Stockholm Syndrome, in which the victim of a kidnapping begins to trust and sympathize with their captor.
“I think we are dangerously close to the Stockholm Syndrome in this state, in accepting a new normal in Jefferson City where a billionaire from St. Louis is buying the legislature lock, stock and barrel without concern for the Middle Class in this state.
Noting that Democrats tend to stay home in off-year elections, McCaskill warned against allowing a bought legislature to paint unions as the enemy, while stripping away the rights and hopes of working families to benefit the 1%.
“There is not a more critical time in our state than right now,” McCaskill said. “Now is the time to get off your seat and onto your feet.”
The convention took up more than two dozen resolutions ranging from a 10 percent statewide per capita allocation increase to fund on-going political needs of the Missouri AFL-CIO to opposition to Amendment 3, which would require more standardized testing, at an additional cost to taxpayers, and take control away from local school districts by basing teacher evaluations on the results of those tests.
(See detailed coverage of the resolutions and additional convention coverage in the Oct. 2 print edition of the Labor Tribune.)