By TONY Pecinovsky
St. Charles – “The truth is – right-to-work is bad for workers and bad for Missouri,” Dave Cook, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655, told about 200 union members and activist as they rallied here in Frontier Park April 8 to put pressure on Senate leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles and other members of the Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature to reject anti-worker, anti-union legislation.
Frontier Park is in Dempsey’s district. Dempsey, the Senate president pro tem, recently voted with other right-wing “extremists in the state senate” for Senate Bill 29, a paycheck deception measure designed to restrict the ways in-which unions can collect and spend membership dues.
Cook and other union leaders are fearful that Dempsey will also support right-to-work (for less) legislation.
A Missouri committee recently combined three right-to-work (for less) bills (HBs 77, 91 and 95) and passed it out of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee for consideration by the full House. The measure includes a referendum clause, which would put the right-to-work (for less) question before voters in August 2014.
“Right-to-work means no rights at work,” Cook said. “This is nothing more than a politically motivated attack on workers designed to eliminate your voice.”
Cook’s union represents over 9,000 grocery store employees at Schnucks, Dierbergs and Shop-N-Save in the greater St. Louis area, including about 861 members in Dempsey’s district, all of whom will face lower wages and fewer benefits if the Republican-controlled legislature gets its way.
‘CALL IT WHAT IT IS — UNION BUSTING’
“Right-to-work isn’t economic development. It won’t create any jobs,” Cook said. “Have the courage to call it what it is – union busting.”
Currently 24 states are right-to-work (for less) states.
According to the AFL-CIO, the average worker in a right-to-work (for less) state makes about $1,500 less per-year than their union counter-parts in non-right-to-work states. Additionally, median household income in right-to-work (for less) states is about $6,400 less, and more workers are stuck in low-wage occupations – 26.7 percent compared to 19.5 percent – in right-to-work (for less) states. And unemployment is higher in right-to-work (for less) states.
‘WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN’
During the rally, union members and workers took out their phones and called the offices of their hometown senators and representatives to express their concern.
“I want to make it clear to every elected official,” Cook said. “We will not back down. We will not stop.”
IMPACTS ALL WORKERS
Trish Medina, a Local 655 shop steward, told the Labor Tribune, right-to-work (for les) and paycheck deception “will affect all workers in this state, not just unions.”
She echoed Cook’s sentiments and added, right-to-work (for less) and paycheck deception are designed to make us “voiceless, to make sure we are not part of the political process.”
Medina, who has been a cashier at a local Dierbergs for 12 years, said the anti-worker measures are all about “putting more money in CEO pockets.”
“They want everything and won’t be happy until we’re forced to work until we drop, with no retirement,” Medina said “It’s just not right. And it’s all for corporate greed,”
Tamsen Whistler, pastor of the Trinity Episcopal Church, said she is opposed to right-to-work (for less) and paycheck deception “as a voter and a Christian. I hope Dempsey listens to his constituents and works to create jobs, not destroy jobs.”
‘WE WANT JOBS’
Jobs and the economy was a central theme of the rally, as it is widely understood by most economists that the fragile economic recovery hinges on increased consumer spending. Lowering wages by breaking unions will not help fix our economy, they argue.
Which led Cook to ask: “Why do you want to tear us down Sen. Dempsey? Why do you want to cut the paychecks of the people driving the economy?”
Cook concluded, “We want jobs, not hardship and unemployment. We deserve better than this.”