Opinion: On the side of working people

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ON THE LINE: Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber (center, holding the picket sign) joined United Auto Workers Local 710 members on strike at Challenge Manufacturing in Kansas City. About 290 workers at the plant, which makes sheet metal products such as floor pans for General Motors Fairfax, went on strike in February over pay, benefits and working conditions.

By STEPHEN WEBBER
Chair, Missouri Democratic Party

As a Marine infantryman fighting in Fallujah, danger came from every direction. As we patrolled through the city, each Marine watched his sector of fire, aware that his fellow Marines’ survival depended on him and his survival depended on his fellow Marines.

Less than a year after returning from Iraq I ran for the state legislature. As a combat veteran, I immediately recognized the Union value of strength through unity. Just as in a combat unit, working people are tougher when we fight together. As a candidate, and then as a Representative, I proudly stood with Labor.

As the Chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, I’m committed to not just working with Labor, not just partnering with Labor; I’m committed to having the Democratic Party actively work to strengthen Labor.

Why? Because we’re at our toughest when we’re all fighting together.

At the Democratic Party our plan to strengthen Missouri’s Labor Movement has four parts.   

1. Fight So-Called ‘Right to Work’

When I became chair of the state party last December one of my goals was to get the party involved in select ballot measures. We’re extremely proud that the first measure the Missouri Democratic Party officially endorsed was the repeal of so-called “right-to-work.”  But we’re going beyond endorsing it. Democratic Party members across the state hit the pavement and collected signatures to get it on the ballot.

As chair, I’m traveling the state (75 counties and five oil changes so far) to spread the message that the Democratic Party stands squarely with working people. And we’re helping our candidates actively incorporate the repeal of so-called “right-to-work” messaging into their campaigns.

2. Stand with Working People

I mean physically stand with them.

One of the first things I did as chair of the Missouri Democratic Party was join workers on a picket line. I stood with United Auto Workers of Local 710 in February as they went on strike to secure their first bargained contract. It was cold. It was loud. They were trying to intimidate us.  But I was proud to physically stand with union workers because it is the right thing to do.

3. Advocate for working people

Whether it’s stopping Republican attacks on Prevailing Wage, opposing the elimination of Project Labor Agreements or fighting bills like Senate Bill 43 that gut anti-discrimination laws and whistleblower protections, Missouri Democrats are always advocating for the rights of workers.

But Democrats don’t just oppose anti-worker bills, we strongly advocate for pro-worker reforms.

In October, Missouri Democrats traversed the state to talk about Healthy Missouri, our positive, proactive plan to expand healthcare access for working people.

We support an expansion of collective bargaining rights to public employees and we actively advocate for policies that would raise wages, guarantee time off and improve financial security for Missouri’s working families.

4. Elect working people to office

The best way to make sure elected officials stand with Labor is if our elected officials are Labor.

At the Missouri Democratic Party, we are making a specific effort to get union members to run for office. If you or anyone you know is interested in running for any elected office please reach out to us at run@missouridems.org.

These are unique political times, but if you are looking for the Democratic Party, you will find us on the side of working people. Why? Because whether we’re on a battlefield in Iraq, or in a workplace in Missouri, Americans are tougher when we fight together.

(Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber served four terms in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2009-2016, representing the 46th District in central Missouri. A United States Marine veteran, he served two tours of duty in Iraq.)

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