By TIM ROWDEN
and SHERI GASSAWAY
Arnold – In the run-up to the Missouri Legislature’s Veto Session on Sept. 16, hundreds of union members mobilized in Jefferson County Sept. 12, with a rally at the Arnold Rec Center and door-to-door visits with fellow union members urging them to write their legislators to ask that they sustain Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 116 (right-to-work).
“We are going to win this week,” Missouri Attorney General, and 2016 Democratic candidate for governor Chris Koster told the crowd. “It is going to be a victory that, hopefully, the political class in this state will remember for decades so we don’t have to do this year after year.”
Representatives of the St. Louis Labor Council and Missouri AFL-CIO joined members of the United Food & Commercial Workers, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 562, Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 1) Laborers, Steelworkers Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers, Teamsters, Transportation Workers, Auto Workers, Insulators, Service Employees and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists gathered for the rally and final push to sustain the Governor’s veto. A similar rally was held in Kansas City.
Gov. Nixon vetoed the House right-to-work bill (HB 116) on June 4, but the forces behind this misleading attack on workers’ rights and wages are pressuring state legislators in an unprecedented effort to get them to change their vote and override the governor’s veto.
Right-wing conservatives in the Missouri Legislature and billionaire-funded organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) are putting unrelenting pressure on representatives in targeted districts to secure enough votes for an override, turn Missouri into the 26th right-to-work state and pave the way for their corporate members to take advantage of workers.
The rally and mobilization effort were an opportunity to let worker-friendly legislators know that Missouri’s union workers have their back.
Among the union members present, John Thomas, a retired members of UAW Local 25 living in Arnold said: “I’m against right-to-work. I’m 79 years old. It doesn’t affect me. I voted against it a long time ago (when RTW was on a statewide ballot in 1978). Now, they want to cram it down our throats. I don’t like that. They want to take our voting rights away from us.”
Eric Well, a 34-year-old Carpenter from Hillsboro said if right-to-work becomes law “I’m going to lose wages, and then everyone is going to go down. I think some people know that, but I don’t think everybody does.”
Kelly Murphy, a member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 from O’Fallon said “I’m hoping they won’t override the veto. I think it would just put us back years as far as labor is concerned and the strength of the people.”
Featured speakers, in addition to Koster, included: Phil Gruber, general vice president, International Association of Machinists; Tad Kicielinski, general vice president, retired, Ironworkers International Union; and Claude Cummings, international vice president, Communications Workers of America.
“Most politicians are like baby diapers,” Kicielinski said, referring to the legislators who voted in favor of HB 116/RTW. “You’ve got to change them often, and mostly for the same reasons.”
That does not apply to the Democrats and Independent in the House and Senate voted unilaterally against the anti-worker measure, or the 27 Republican representatives and senators who crossed the aisle to vote with their constituents, the working families of Missouri.
Both state senators and six out of seven state representatives from Jefferson County voted against right-to-work this year. Only one state legislator in the county is a Democrat.
Statewide, Republicans in the House who voted against RTW included:
Linda Black (R-Park Hills), Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles), Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City), Robert Cornejo (R-St. Peters), Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), Keith English (I-Florissant), Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), Elaine Gannon (R-DeSoto), Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters), Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph), Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), Bill E. Kidd (R-Jackson), Nick King (R-Liberty), Bart Korman (R-High Hill), Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs), John McCaherty (R-High Ridge), Jim Neely (R-Cameron), Randy Pietzman (R-Troy), Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill), Becky Ruth (R-Festus), Dan Shaul (R-Imperial), Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs), Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs), Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles), Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles).
In the Senate, the Republican votes against RTW included Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), Gary Romine (R-Farmington), Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) Paul Wieland (R-Imperial). Wieland, who represents a largely blue-collar district, also helped kill a paycheck deception bill in committee.
“We’ve got to thank them,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “The only htingk we can do to compete with the amount of money Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers are putting in here is put out boots on the street. That’s what we always do, and that’s how we’ll win!”
Cummings, international vice president of the Communications Workers listed some of the many ways that unions have helped American workers, including: weekends without work, all breaks at work (including your lunch breaks, paid vacation, the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), sick leave, Social Security, minimum wage, the Civil Rights Act/Title VII prohibiting employer discrimination, the eight-hour workday, overtime pay, child labor laws, the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA), the 40-hour work week, Workers' Compensation (workers' comp), unemployment insurance, pensions, workplace safety standards and regulations, employer health insurance, collective bargaining rights for employees, wrongful termination laws, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), whistleblower protection laws, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) which prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee, Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS), compensation increases and evaluations (raises), sexual harassment laws, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), holiday pay, employer dental, life, and vision insurance, privacy rights, pregnancy and parental leave, military leave, the right to strike, public education for children, the Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011, and laws ending sweatshops in the United States
“That’s what unions have done for workers,” Cummings said. “We’re not going to let them take it away from us. It starts with stopping it now. Because if they win here, it will spread to other states.”
NO PURPOSE BUT
TO DESTROY UNIONS
“The name right-to-work is a deception,” said Gruber, general vice president of the Machinists.
“The slogan right-to-work has led people to believe that it’s going to create jobs. It has no purpose but to destroy unions.”
After the rally, Mark Bielicke and Dave Schopper, both members of Laborers’ Local 110, picked up a packet of information to commence their door-to-door visits. The folder contained names and addresses of union members in the Fenton area, maps and blank anti-RTW postcards to legislators.
Saturday was not Bielicke’s and Schopper’s first door-to-door campaign to spread the message about the dangers of right to work. The two participated in front porch meetings earlier this year to talk to fellow union members about horrendous legislation.
“The best part about these visits is the unity you feel,” Bielicke said. “Even though we’re not from the same locals, we’re standing together in solidarity.”
Their first stop was the home of Paul and Nancy Route in the 20 block of Della Drive. The couple took a break from their yard work to meet with Bielicke and Schopper.
Bielicke explained the current status of HB 116 and asked Paul Route, a retired machinist from Local 41 to sign anti-RTW postcard. Bielicke told Route he was going to hand-deliver the postcards to Rep. John McCaherty (R-High Ridge) at Wednesday’s veto session in Jefferson City. McCaherty voted against the bill in May.
“I’m all against right-to-work,” Route said, quickly filling out the postcard.
Bielicke and Schopper also visited with Andrea Enloe in the 100 block of Della Drive. Her father Joseph is a member of IUPAT District Council 58, and her boyfriend, Michael Beckman, is a member of IATSE Local 6. Enloe was aware of the door-to-door campaign because her boyfriend set up the sound system for Saturday’s rally.
“I’m in,” Enloe said, happily signing the postcard. “This legislation would hurt my family.”
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR