OPINION: Top 5 Labor stories from the 2024 legislative session

Missouri AFL-CIO

A lot happened in Jefferson City this session. While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, here are five of the biggest Labor stories from the 2024 legislative session that every union member should be aware of: 

1. We preserved the initiative petition process! Protecting citizens’ access to the ballot was our No. 1 priority this session, and with the help of a 50-plus hour filibuster by Senate Democrats, we got it done! The ability of Missouri citizens to bring an issue to the statewide ballot is an important check on politicians. We used a variation of that when 67 percent of the state told politicians they were wrong to pass (so-called) “right-to-work,” and they wanted it blocked. We’ve seen Missourians use the initiative petition process to raise the minimum wage, expand healthcare coverage and ban lobbyist gifts in Jefferson City. Keeping the initiative petition process was a huge win for union workers in Missouri.  

2. No movement on so-called “right-to-work.” In 2018 we asked you to knock doors and make calls and donate money to defeat “right-to-work,” and you did. As election day drew nearer we told you that we wanted to beat it so badly that they wouldn’t bring it back up for years, and together we did that too. While we are ALWAYS vigilant, this was another session where we enjoyed the fruits of our labor during that hot summer of 2018. There was no movement at all on “right-to-work,” and together we intend to keep it that way.  

3. Bottled up paycheck deception. One of now disgraced former Governor Eric Greitens first priorities was signing legislation stripping public employees of their union rights in a bill known as paycheck deception. The version of paycheck deception that he signed, HB 1413, was eventually tossed out by the State Supreme Court for being a violation of rights. The bad news is that the fight isn’t over, with a new version of paycheck deception (HB 2876) being filed this year. The good news is that we worked with our allies to make sure it stayed bottled up in a House Committee. No movement. No votes. It’s a win for this year, but an issue we need to continue to be ready for.  

4. Step back in education. With anti-Labor majorities firmly entrenched, it can’t all be good news, and unfortunately this year some bad education policy passed. Senate Bill 727, which expands charters and vouchers, has already been signed into law by the governor. Vouchers drain money away from our public schools, and charter schools make it even more difficult for teachers and staff to have union protections. A disappointing loss this year, but a fight that we will remain engaged in. 

5. Fighting off attacks on unemployment insurance. Large corporations are always going after our hard-earned social safety net, and they play the long game. At a time of record low unemployment they thought we wouldn’t have the organization or the wherewithal to stop attacks on unemployment income (UI) benefits; they were wrong. The attacks came in two major forms: (1.) Reducing the week of eligibility by tying is to the statewide unemployment rate (SB 745), and (2.) By reducing insurance payments by offsetting them against unrelated benefits workers have already earned (i.e. reducing UI payments by a worker’s unused vacation time they had saved when laid off).

While unemployment is low now, that doesn’t mean workers aren’t still being laid off, or that the good times will last forever. Both attacks threaten the long-term security of Missouri’s workers, but with the help of union workers and leaders from across the state we were able to stop these bad bills and protect workers rights.

As the president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, I want to thank every union member that made a call, wrote an email, came to Jefferson City or attended any political event this spring to help us fight back against the anti-Labor bills in Jefferson City. It’s a tough environment, and winning certainly isn’t guaranteed, but every year we pull together and fight like hell to protect our rights. I’m grateful to be in this fight with you. 

Now let’s get to work electing pro-Labor candidates this summer and fall so we have more allies to help us out next session! 

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