By TIM ROWDEN
When it comes to this year’s elections, Missouri has the most important governor’s race in the country, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
Trumka spoke to standing room only rally of union members and leadership and representatives of affiliate groups at July 9 kickoff for the Labor 2016 campaign at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 hall in St. Louis.
Attorney General Chris Koster, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, has long been a friend of working families, Trumka said, and is seen as our best hope in blocking passage of right-to-work.
All four of Missouri’s Republican candidates for governor – Catherine Hanaway, Eric Greitens, John Brunner and Peter Kinder – have emphasized their support for right-to-work and have promised to sign such a measure into law if they are elected governor.
Joplin businessman David Humphreys and financier Rex Sinquefield are bankrolling some of the Republican candidates, and Humphreys has made passing right-to-work one of his top issues.
MOST IMPORTANT GOVERNOR’S RACE IN AMERICA
“I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the most important gubernatorial race in the country,” Trumka said.
“As Attorney General, Chris Koster has fought with us and for us. And no matter who emerges from the Republican primary, he will be running against someone who supports right-to-work and opposes everything we hold dear.”
Missouri is among six targeted states for the Labor Movement, but the only one with a contest for governor. The other states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Florida – have key Senate races.
Missouri has its own targeted U.S. Senate race between Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republican incumbent, Roy Blunt.
“Blunt is part of the dysfunctional Senate majority that refuses to perform basic duties like holding a hearing and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee,” Trumka said.
Trumka noted that while Blunt was serving special interests in Washington, Kander, an Army veteran, was serving the country in Afghanistan.
“Jason Kander is pro-worker, pro-union and pro-veteran,” Trumka said. “He is exactly the kind of fresh face and strong voice we need in the U.S. Senate.”
Trumka added that Kander would never privatize the Veterans Administration because he understands the federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of veterans.
Working families have a chance to make gains in this year in the Missouri Legislature by winning key races for Democrats and worker-friendly Republicans.
“Winning key races there will help strengthen our firewall and send a message to other states — working people want to write the rules ourselves,” Trumka stressed.
In Missouri, that will mean electing worker-friendly Democrats AND Republicans, like Missouri Senate candidate Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), who has stood with working families during her eight years as a state representative and now is seeking to succeed Tom Dempsey in the State Senate.
“Back in Washington, people might wonder why Organized Labor is supporting a Republican,” Trumka said. “The answer is easy: we don’t work for any political party. Our agenda drives our politics, not the other way around.”
In the presidential race, Trumka called the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump “profoundly unfit to be president.”
“He is a delusional, dangerous demagogue who would tear this country apart.”
Trumka acknowledged that some rank-and-file union members have been swayed by Trump’s persona.
But, he said, union workers are changing their minds about Trump as they learn more about his business tactics, strikes at Trump’s casinos in Nevada and in Atlantic City, and the fact that most of his businesses’ products are produced overseas.
TRUMP EXPLOITS WORKERS
“He’s a liar,” Trumka said. “He hates unions and exploits workers to enrich himself.”
The presumptive Democratic Hillary Clinton has the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.
“Hillary Clinton has spent her entire career fighting to make life better for workers and families and women and children,” Trumka said.
“Time and again, Hillary has listened to working people and stood with us to win positive change. She is tough. She is smart. And she understands that to truly make America great, workers must write the economic rules.”