By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
St. Charles – It was more than three decades ago, and Pete Kraus was a young member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562. He remembers volunteering to work phone banks calling hundreds of people during the bitterly fought right-to-work campaign that Missourians overwhelmingly won in 1978– defeating the unfair legislation.
Pete joined with his son, Michael, 28, a third-generation member of Local 562, at the Tri-County Labor Club in St. Charles County recently to gear up for the same fight all over again.
“I know we have to stop it,” Michael Kraus said, “and all union members need to be aware of how bad right-to-work laws would be for our wages and workers’ well-being in general.”
The Tri-County Labor Club was standing-room for the Urgent Member meeting. Shannon Weber, campaign/political director for the Missouri AFL-CIO said that union members across the state are turning out in force to get the facts on RTW and who’s behind the renewed push.
Over the past month similar Urgent Member meetings have been held in Jefferson County, St. Louis City, Cape Girardeau, St. Joseph, Eureka, St. Louis County and Franklin County.
AT LEAST NINE BILLS BEING PUSHED IN JEFFERSON CITY
At least nine right-to-work bills are waiting for consideration at the State Capitol.
Weber said the fight against right-to-work/Freedom to Work/Workplace Freedom and other deceptively named anti-worker initiatives must come from a united, engaged and mobilized body of union women and men.
Right-to-work, by whatever name, is all about politics. These unfair and unnecessary laws are designed to weaken labor unions and collective bargaining rights.
“I first learned about right-to work legislation as a child, in conversations at our dinner table,” said Weber, the daughter of a Local 27 Boilermaker. “These Urgent Member Meetings are helping ensure many more conversations both at home and at work about the dangers of “right to work.” It’s up to all of us to make sure and get the information out. These laws would negatively impact all of us, union members and non-members – and all of us are going to have to step up and get involved.”
Weber said the average worker in a RTW state makes $1,540 a year less than workers in other states when all other factors are removed. What’s worse, total household incomes are $4,613 less in RTW states.
According to a recent study by University of Missouri-Kansas City Professor Michael Kelsay, imposing RTW in Missouri would contribute to workers losing between $4.8 billion and $6.28 billion annually in wages. State, local and county jurisdictions would lose between $82.14 and $107.56 million annually in lost sales tax revenue as a result of the lower wages.
But most importantly, Weber said, “It will silence our voices and take away our rights. If we don’t stop these attacks, the middle class will continue to shrink.”
“So-called RTW proposals –– also known in Missouri this year as “Freedom to Work” and “Workplace Freedom” –– aren’t about jobs –– they’re all about politics, and undermining the basic rights of workers,” Weber said.
DETERMINED TO FIGHT
The looks on members’ faces said it all.
Those who spoke during the meeting were dead serious about the dangers of these anti-worker laws and were ready to fight.
Ironworkers Local 396 Business Representative Bill Trendley said opposing right-to-work/workplace freedom/freedom to work or whatever name it goes by is a matter of common sense.
“I, too, heard about right-to work at the dinner table, and I’ve talked with my children about right-to-work at our dinner table,” Trendley said. “It’s an issue everyone should care about and work toward defeating. We defeated this once, and we can defeat it again if everyone gets involved. We – those who are already involved in workers’ issues – share these feelings, but we need to get the word to as many people as possible and let them know that we’re all in this together.”
Some of the loudest proponents of RTW would like to see the issue put to voters on the 2014 statewide ballot, thereby avoiding an almost certain veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, and upping the ante for union members to educate their family, friends and neighbors about the realities of RTW.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help now, before this deceptive, misguided anti-worker legislation ever makes it to the ballot. Here’s how:
• Speak to your representative. Call 888-825-1418 to be connected with your representative and ask them to oppose right-to-work, paycheck deception and anti-prevailing wage bills. Important: Speak respectfully and stick to the facts. Many representatives are unsure about RTW. Speaking respectfully and calmly sharing with them what RTW would mean for you and your family could make the difference in how they vote.
• Talk to your family, co-workers, friends and neighbors about right-to-work and why it is wrong for working people and wrong for Missouri.
• Stay informed. Text VOICE to 235246 to receive text message updates from the Missouri AFL-CIO. You can also stay in touch by visiting www.moaflcio.org, “liking” the Missouri AFL-CIO Facebook page and connecting on Twitter @MOAFLCIO.
• Attend the “Stand Up for Missouri’s Middle Class” rally and lobby day Wednesday, March 26, in Jefferson City. This event is sponsored by the Missouri State Building & Construction Trades Council, but is open to ALL union members. Our numbers need to be seen, and your voices need to be heard.