Since when is pro-business Chamber of Commerce the workers’ advocate?

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DEBATING DUO- Mike Kelley (left), president of the Kelley Group and former executive director of the Missouri Democratic party, and John Hancock, former chairman of the state’s Republican party, hosted last week’s discussion on the anti-worker “right-to-work” bill now before the Missouri legislature. You can see them every Sunday on Channel 2 at 8:30 a.m.

KMOX debate challenges phony Chamber assertion that ‘right-to-work’ will help workers

By ED FINKELSTEIN

Publisher

Since when has the Missouri Chamber of Commerce become the champion of workers in the phony “right-to-work” debate when they’ve consistently fought against every pro-worker piece of legislation like improving workers compensation and increasing unemployment benefits?

That was the crucial question in a RTW discussion Jan. 12 on KMOX radio asked by UFCW Local 655 President David Cook in counteracting the totally erroneous statements made by Chamber President Dan Mehan whose business organization is one of the leading groups pushing for RTW in Missouri.

“Since when did the Chamber of Commerce become the defender or workers’ rights?” Cook asked, pointing out how the Chamber has fought against every piece of progressive worker legislation for years in the Missouri legislature.

He added that workers in RTW states make $4,600 less on average than workers in free states, hinting to the real reason the business-oriented Chamber wants to see RTW in Missouri – to reduce workers wages and increase company profits on their workers’ backs.

Cook also asked another pointed question: “Since union members make up only about eight percent of the state’s workforce, how is it the Republican legislature is making it their number one priority when there are so many other challenges facing Missouri?”

SETTLING POLITICAL AGENDAS

One of the two program moderators, Michael Kelley, president of the Kelley Group and absolutely pro-union, picked up on that point:

“With roads and infrastructure crumbling, which is the number one reason companies go to a state, the legislature is saying we’re not going to find resources for it, we’re not going to focus on it. Why?”

Then Kelley hit the nail squarely on the head, answering his own question: “This is all about settling political agendas, taking the workers voice out of politics, and the workers know it.”

GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE

Cook made another important point often overlooked in the heat of this debate: RTW is government overreach with the government injecting itself into free collective bargaining, telling employers and unions what they cannot bargain over: ensuring everyone pays for the services the union provides either via dues or a fair share fee. Ultimately this issue is settled by a democratic vote of the workers themselves deciding if this requirement should be in their contract at all.

“And the bill has criminal penalties if the employer wants to be able to freely negotiate issues with his union. What company wants to come here facing that?” Cook asked.

TOTALLY MISLEADING

In the discussion Mehan made a number of totally false and misleading statements including:

  • Workers are forced to join a union. WRONG!

Federal law says no one has to join, but they can be required to pay a fair share fee to cover the union’s overhead costs such as collective bargaining, grievance processing, staff, etc. which even non-members are entitled.

  • Site selectors say RTW is important in a company’s decision to locate. WRONG!

Meehan cited a single site selection person who told him that. But a caller in the Q&A portion of the program pointed out that a major site selection magazine polling site selection companies over many years has clearly shown that RTW has never been in the top 10 reasons a company considers when looking to locate a new facility.

NOT A SINGLE EMPLOYER

Cook blew another huge hole in Meehan’s untruthful rhetoric: in all the RTW debates, not a single major Missouri employer stood up at hearings and asked that RTW become Missouri law.

“It’s one man – anti-union contractor David Humphreys of Joplin – who has put millions into political campaigns for pro-RTW candidates, that wants this law, not the people of Missouri,” Cook said, citing surveys that Missourians don’t want to see this kind of government overreach that “ultimately drives down the income of hardworking Missourians.”

Kelley’s counterpart in the discussions was Republican John Hancock, who this month retired as chairman of the Republican Party. Kelley is a former executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party. The two have a regular radio show “Kelley and Hancock” on KMOX and a Sunday morning show at 8:30 a.m. on FOX Channel 2.

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Listeners speak out on KMOX

As part of last week’s discussion on KMOX radio about the anti-worker “right-to-work” about to become law in Missouri, during the listener call-in portion of the Kelley & Hancock show worker after worker chastised the law as bad for workers, many of them who had worked in RTW states.

A small sampling:

  • Mike: “A recent article in the Kansas City Business Journal made the point that Missouri outpaced its RTW neighbors in new jobs and ranked in the top ten states in new job creation last year.” (See story on Page 1.)
  • Linda: “RTW is wrong for Missourians. Brings in lower paying jobs. If you don’t want to work in a union shop, you can find another job.
  • John: “I worked in the auto body industry here in St. Louis and went to Florida, a RTW state, and down there they were paid $7-$8 an hour LESS for a journeyman body man and they worked on holidays with no holiday pay.”
  • Ben: identified himself as a 19-year UFCW Local 655 member: “If I worked in exact same job at a Walmart or Target I would make $4-$5 an hour less, no four-week vacation I get now, no sick pay. It’s not because the company thinks I’m such a great asset, it’s because the union stands behind me and fights for my rights.”
  • Mike: “It’s all about big business. I’m not a union member but (with good union wages) you can buy a home, take a vacation.”
  • Brian: “It will happen to show people how bad it is.”
  • Pierre: “The poorest states in the nation are RTW and they’ve been RTW for a long time.”

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