In his first State of the State Address, Missouri's newly elected Republican Governor Eric Greitens laid out plans for an all-out assault on unions, calling for passage of so-called “right-to-work” legislation, doing away with Project Labor Agreements and repealing Missouri’s prevailing wage law.
Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1 and president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council, minced no words in her response.
“Right-to-work simply means forcing folks to-work for less: Less money. Less health coverage. And less opportunity for workers and their families,” Walsh said. “This legislation divides Missouri and distracts lawmakers from more important tasks like balancing the budget, funding our schools and ensuring safe communities across the state."
Greitens campaigned on a pledge to sign “right-to-work” legislation into law and the anti-union legislation is proceeding through the Missouri House. The House is expected to debate it Wednesday (Jan. 18). The Senate is expected to take it up next week.
With Republican supermajorities in the Missouri House and Senate, the anti-union, anti-worker legislation is almost certain to pass, making Missouri the 28th “right-to-work” state.
Democrats continue their call to put the issue before voters or table it altogether, saying the divisive, anti-worker bill represents government overreach into negotiations between employers and employees. Republicans have thus far blocked efforts to put the measure on the ballot.
“What are they afraid of?” Representative Bob Burns (D-Affton), a retired member of Teamsters 600, asked in an interview prior to the State of the State Address. “What’s the Governor afraid of? Let the people vote. Let the people’s voices be heard.”
Greitens claims the “right-to-work” is needed to create jobs, but the numbers aren’t with him.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, year-to-year stats in November showed Missouri created more jobs than ALL seven of its RTW neighboring states and even more than Illinois, the state’s only non-RTW neighbor.
Missouri’s creation of 57,100 new jobs during the past 12 months through November ranked Missouri in the top 10 states nationwide for new jobs created.
“By the end of 2016, Missouri had reached record employment, as more Missourians were on the job than ever before,” Walsh said in her response.
Walsh noted that Missouri also ended the year leading all Midwestern states in manufacturing growth.
“These are important points to make, because behind every one of those statistics is a hardworking, real person, who is trying to make ends meet,” Walsh said. “They’re raising families, saving for college and trying to live a good life.
“That’s why it’s up to all of us who serve in elected office – from the General Assembly all the way to the Governor’s office – to respect these workers, to stand with these workers, and to protect them from government overreach and bureaucratic meddling.”