By TIM ROWDEN
Thousands of union members rallied at the State Capitol March 30 to oppose an override of Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 1891, a paycheck deception measure that would require annual permission for union dues and fees to come out of public workers’ pay.
The bill would require public employees in unions to opt in each year for dues to be taken out of their paychecks.
Gov. Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill before lawmakers recessed for spring break, setting up an override attempt before the end of the session in May. The bill passed with 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate — the exact amount needed to override the governor. Even one switched vote in either chamber would allow the veto to stand.
“This is just another attempt to erode the hard-fought rights that form the foundation of the American middle class,” Nixon told the crowd of several thousand union members gathered on the Capitol lawn.
This is the second time Nixon has vetoed such a bill.
“This time they went even further by opening new avenues for lawsuits against employee associations, including those representing teachers and first responders,” Nixon said of this year’s bill. “So not only are they coming after unions, they’re giving my union, the lawyers, more business. I don’t think that’s really good for our state.”
Union members from across the state turned out for the rally, sponsored by the Missouri State Building Trades Council, and to lobby their legislators inside the State Capitol.
Nixon said that the paycheck bill represented an unnecessary burden on unions.
If it weren't for Organized Labor, Nixon said, there wouldn't be a 40-hour work week, prevailing wage laws and workplace safety measures.
Some legislators don’t get that, he said.
“Some lawmakers and the special interests that back them still seem to think that the way to lift up our economy is to tear down working families,” Nixon said. “Never in my 30 years of public service have I seen this much anti-Labor activity in the legislature, never. Instead of putting forward policies that would strengthen the middle class, they’ve launched an all-out attack on the folks who created it.
“We need to send a clear, unambiguous message that working people built this country,” Nixon said. “They built the middle class, and they will stand united to defend the values we all share anytime and anywhere they're threatened,”
‘NO MORE!’ ANTI-WORKER AGENDA
State Sen. Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), president of the Missouri State Building Trades Council and a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1, started the rally with a rousing speech calling on legislators to stop their anti-worker agenda, and calling on union members to stay informed and engaged about the issues that affect them and their families.
“We need to make our voices heard with one simple message: No more!” Walsh said. “No more legislation aimed at eliminating our ability to organize. No more legislation aimed at restricting our right to elect our representation. No more legislation aimed at reducing job place safety. And no more legislation aimed at reducing our wages.
“We shall not let them silence the working men and women of this state with their anti-worker, pro-big business agenda,” Walsh said. “We must protect the hard-fought gains that our predecessors secured. If we lose, the entire middle class loses. Everyone who works for a living will pay the price.
“As hardworking Missourians, it is our job to be engaged, to stay informed on the issues that affect us and our families, and make sure our elected officials know what it is. Together we can make Missouri a better future place to live.”
‘A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD’
Worker-friendly legislators and Democrats running for statewide office turned out at the rally to show their support glimpse into some of the issues likely define the 2016 election season.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is running to unseat U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that Missourians don't want paycheck deception or another proposal which would grant greater legal protections to wedding vendors and religious groups who oppose same-sex marriage.
“Only in the gerrymandered fantasy land that is the Missouri State Capitol is passing paycheck deception a priority,” Kander said. “I’ve traveled to every county in this state in the past six months and literally no one has brought it up. Missourians don’t want paycheck deception.
"Do you know what Missourians do want?" Kander asked. "A level playing field. They want the minimum wage to be a livable wage. They want women to be paid the same amount as men for doing the same job, and they certainly don't want any part of this war on working Missourians taking place in the Capitol."
Attorney General Chris Koster, Democratic candidate for governor, received the loudest applause of the day when he was introduced to the crowd of union members, some of whom he had already met and spoken with before the rally began.
“The fact that we have to come here to Jefferson City and rally on this lawn year after year for good wages for six million Missourians proof that something is terribly broken inside that State Capitol,” Koster said.
We are here again outside these State Capitol fighting off attempts by out-of-state interests to divide us, the working people of this state.
"Under their guise of economic freedom, special interest groups are lobbying this building to pit working men and women against one another in an effort to drive down wages in our state," Koster said. "They believe that the bonds that tie Missouri workers together are weak. They believe that they can break you, but they are dead wrong!”
Long committed to working families, as attorney general Koster has prosecuted more than a third of the prevailing wage violations in Missouri over the past 20 years and taken on companies who knowingly misclassified workers to avoid paying payroll taxes in the state.
“I will always stand with you to protect good wages through collective bargaining and to fight against right-to-work,” Koster said.
“When these out-of-state companies attempt to drive down wages, it’s not just an attack on the working men and women of this state, it’s an attack on the long-held values that our state has always held dear.
Every public servant who works in that building has made a commitment to maintain a strong and fair economy where every Missourian has an opportunity to succeed, but sometimes in the back and forth of politics, they lose sight of that commitment and they forget,” Koster said.
“As I stand here today, I want to reaffirm my pledge to you that I will never forget the honor of standing up for you, your families and the values that you stand for.”
For additional photos from the rally, check out our April 7 print edition or visit our Facebook page.