Labor, St. Louis County Democrats gearing for battle in 2014
By TIM ROWDEN
Bridgeton – “Right-to-work is the sword that eliminates all of us,” Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary/treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council told union members and Democrats gathered recently for the St. Louis County Democrats’ Labor Education Forum at Operating Engineers Local 513’s hall.
Right-to-work (for less) failed in the Missouri Legislature this year, but the anti-union, anti-worker measure is expected to return – perhaps as early as next year – as a referendum resolution in the Republican-controlled State House of Representatives, to be decided by voters.
“We have to be ready for the most important fight of our lives – and that’s right-to-work,” Aboussie said. “If it’s not in 2014, they’re going to bring it again. And if it doesn’t pass then, they’re going to bring it again. One day, we’re going to have to deal with this.”
The anti-union, anti-worker right-to-work (for less) would strip unions of the financial ability to fight for workers by allowing freeloaders to enjoy the advantages of union representation in terms of pay, benefits and support without paying union dues or even a fair share fee if they don’t want to be a union member.
And it would hurt all working Missourians, Aboussie said, having an effect on income and living standards, high school and college graduation rates, divorce rates and more.
According to the AFL-CIO, workers in right-to-work (for less) states earn an average of $5,680 less a year than workers in other states.
Right-to-work (for less) states have higher poverty rates, spend less on education and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, have a 36 percent higher rate of workplace deaths than non-right-to-work (for less) states.
“It’s a scenario that will trickle down, if it’s passed, from generation to generation to generation,” Aboussie said. “There’s not many states that when they go to right-to-work come back.”
ILLINOIS ALSO AT RISK
Missouri workers are not alone facing the threat of right-to-work, Aboussie said.
If right-to-work (for less) were to pass in Missouri, then Illinois, which has a larger union contingent than Missouri, would be next in line.
“Missouri is probably the most pivotal state when it comes to right-to-work because of who we border,” Aboussie said. “Everybody in the state of Illinois as well as Washington, D.C., has their eyes on Missouri.”
A DIFFERENT FIGHT
Missouri voters defeated right-to-work (for less) once before in 1978, but the situation was different then, Aboussie said.
“The landscape was a lot different,” he said. “We probably had three times as many union households in the state of Missouri as what we have now. This fight is going to be a little bit different.”
It will involve social media, Aboussie said, but also extensive outreach to union members, elected officials, faith leaders, employer organization and business owners who hire union workers.
It will also involve lobbying in the Missouri Legislature
“We’re planning as though our fight is going to be at the ballot,” Aboussie said. “But we’re not giving up on the legislative process. We still hope there are some people that have some sense on the opposite side of the aisle that will realize when we give them enough data that this is not good for the state.
“We hope that the Senate, if this would come out of the House, will realize this isn’t the best thing when you look at all the economic data.”
EDUCATION IS KEY
St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee Chair Matthew Robinson said the continuing assault on workers in state and national politics threatens not just union members, but ALL working Missourians.
That’s one of the reasons education and communication between union members and Democrats is so important. The other is that some union members and Democrats have drifted away from their common core issues.
The St. Louis County Democrats are encouraging union members to go to Democratic Township meetings in their communities, to carry Labor’s message and begin opening the doors of communication.
“It’s a way to get out the message,” Robinson said. “We’ve got people that grew up with a Labor father or in a Labor household, but haven’t been around it for 30 years. They’ve kind of forgotten it and dropped off the chart for Labor and they’re not educated to vote for Labor issues.
“At the same time, the trades and the unions have the same issue,” Robinson said. “They’ve got people that have dropped off as far as knowing what the issues are that are important to the Democratic Party. We all known somebody out there that’s switched and tipped-toed around to vote Republican, and those are the people we need to bring back to the Party and to Labor.”
There are 28 electoral townships in St. Louis County. To find the township and committeeman or committeewoman contact information for your area, go to http://stldems.wordpress.com/.