MO AFL-CIO’s Louis: ‘When will he leave? Can we help him pack?’
By TIM ROWDEN
Poor David Humphreys can’t catch a break.
After he and his family spent $11 million to elect a governor and Republican legislators to pass and sign this year’s anti-worker “right-to-work” legislation, Humphreys was spurned recently by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case of TAMKO v. Hobbs, a case involving allegedly defective shingles that Humphreys’ Joplin-based TAMKO Building Products had manufactured, and whether the fine-print warranty plastic-wrapped around each bundle of shingles was enough to protect TAMKO from lawsuits.
TAMKO v. Hobbs is more than a simple product liability case, and Humphreys has been trying to buy much more than “right-to-work” with his generous campaign contributions.
He also has been trying to buy legislators willing to neuter the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, the state’s consumer-protection law. He found a willing shill in Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) who, after receiving a $100,000 donation from Humphreys earlier this year, introduced a bill to gut the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and apply new language retroactively to TAMKO v. Hobbs.
Ethics advocates, and even fellow Republicans, accused Richard of “pay to play” politics, and the bill didn’t make it out of the Senate.
Poor Humphreys had gotten nothing for his investment.
Then came the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear arguments that the class action case against TAMKO shouldn’t be permitted.
Furious, Humphreys issued a statement saying the company “will need to reconsider our presence in Missouri versus other states where the rule of law outweighs the rule of trial lawyers.”
TAMKO employs about 1,400 people around the country, 600 of them in Joplin.
“The loss of 600 jobs in Joplin would be devastating for those workers and a major blow to the city’s economy,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO.
“David Humphreys’ threats show just how little he cares about Missouri workers, their families and their safety, especially those who work for him,” Louis said.
“He is no friend of workers or of the working people who buy his products. His cynical efforts to buy the Missouri Legislature are nothing more than a greedy, mean-spirited attempt to stomp on workers and make the law more favorable for his shoddy products.
“For the working people who are poised to suffer the loss of wages and negotiating power under Humphreys’ bought and paid for ‘right-to-work’ law, the only questions I have are, ‘When will he leave?’ And ‘Can we help him pack?’”
A WORTHLESS WARRANTY AND A SNEAKY CLAUSE
TAMKO’s roofing shingles come with a 30-year warranty and that sneaky clause, not presented to consumers at the point of purchase but wrapped around each package of shingles, requiring warranty disputes to be settled in arbitration.
The suit in question involves Lee Hobbs of Eunice, MO, who bought TAMKO shingles in 2005. By 2013, they were warped and curling.
Both Hobbs and the church filed warranty claims with TAMKO, seeking their money back. Hobbs’ claim was denied, and the church was offered only a partial replacement for its shingles. Hobbs and the church teamed up and filed a class-action lawsuit against TAMKO.
TAMKO responded by arguing that Hobbs and the church didn’t have a legal right to sue because of that sneaky clause language wrapped around each package of shingles.
While the case moved through the courts, Humphreys also invested in some insurance.
During the 2016 election, he and his sister Sarah Atkins gave $11 million to Missouri Republican candidates. They were particularly generous to gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens and attorney general candidate Josh Hawley, who as attorney general would have wide-ranging powers to intervene in class action lawsuits. In December, after both candidates won their races, the Humphreys family gave each of them another $1 million. Then came the $100,000 donation to Senator Richard.
Money flows through Humphreys’ hands like water through his shingles.
Now, after all that investment, Humphreys is threatening to leave the state because, like the customers who purchased his shingles, he didn’t get what he paid for.