St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay received a warm welcome at last week’s meeting of the St. Louis Labor Council executive board where he outlined his accomplishments for residents, working families and organized labor over the past four years and asked the council for its endorsement in next year’s mayoral race. The primary will be March 5 and the general election April 2.
In accordance with its long-standing policy, the board will wait until filing for that office closes Jan. 4, 2013 before considering an endorsement. In his 2009 race, the mayor had labor’s endorsement; he won with 61 percent majority.
“We’ve worked hard to listen to our employees and give them, and you as their representatives, a voice in city government” the mayor said, and that includes being open and available to union leadership when they have issues that impact their members.
Admitting that there have been honest differences at times, Mayor Slay said that his has been a union-friendly administration. To make that point he noted a number of key accomplishments during his 11 years as mayor:
• Having a staff member, Mary Ellen Ponder formerly with the Iron Workers, as a direct liaison with labor.
• Over $2 Billion in construction, most of it by unionized workers.
• Some $325 million in public works projects, again, most with unionized workers.
• Working with the Building & Construction Trades Council to ensure that the upcoming 20-year, multi-billion construction work by the Metropolitan Sewer District is union work and includes appropriate minority representation and contractors.
• Providing a two percent pay raise this year for all city employees despite the fact that the general economy is in a funk.
• When manpower cuts had to be made, they were by attrition.
• Established a series of Listening Tours to meet directly with the public and city workers to hash out issues and concerns.
• Directed his staff to work with labor leaders when they have issues to discuss.
• Preventing those who would harm unions through city ordinances from doing so.
• Providing collective bargaining for city police officers, the first time in the city’s history.
Police Officers Association Business Manager Jeff Roorda said that “the mayor’s office has been terrific to work with” as they moved towards winning the union’s first contract with the city, a solid contract that “is the envy of every police union in the state. The mayor has been open and sincere with us throughout.”
David Cook, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655, said the mayor has worked with his union trying to win a neutrality agreement from Whole Foods, a notoriously anti-union company, trying to open a grocery store in a new downtown development. While that’s not yet accomplished, the company has not yet won city approval for their store.
Problems at the airport were discussed and Ponder distributed a detailed fact sheet on what areas of construction the city has authority over at the airport and which areas are private. It had names and contact numbers for every aspect of the airport’s operations to help everyone understand just what authority the city has there and who all the contacts are.
FIRE FIGHTERS ISSUE
Council President Bob Soutier brought up the city fire fighters issue with the mayor, a major point of contention with a major city union, Fire Fighters Local 73.
“That issue is not yet resolved,” said the mayor, “but I would like to get it resolved. Historically, no one has gone more to bat for that department that I have.”
He quickly added: “I’m not blaming anyone. There’s a lot of money involved. I’ll bend as far as I can to get it done. We will keep trying.”
“The bottom line,” said the mayor, “Lots of people say they support you, but they don’t really mean it and don’t deliver. You can rely on me and you know that.
The mayor made a final request of the union leadership: “If you have an issue, the sooner we know about it the more effectively we can get involved to try and get it resolved.”
“I want the same thing you want for St. Louis, a vibrant city where workers are respected. I respect your unions and the people you represent for the more than 27 years I have been in city government.”
Mayor Slay was first elected mayor in April 2001 after serving as a St. Louis Alderman for 10 years, then as president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen from 1995 to 2001. He was re-elected mayor in 2005 and 2009.