By ED FINKELSTEIN
Now entering its fourth year, the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society (WES), a non-profit, grassroots community-labor worker-education organization, is racking up a record of accomplishments in its support of workers.
WES has been endorsed and embraced by the Greater St. Louis Labor Council for its ongoing support of workers’ issues and training, and chartered WES as an affiliate organization earlier this year.
“We’ve accomplished a lot. And we’re proud of it,” said WES President Tony Pecinovsky.
Among WES’s accomplishments:
• Growing political voice – In early 2015, WES member Cara Spencer was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen (Ward 20) after an intensive door-to-door voter education and mobilization effort.
In the summer of 2016, WES members Bruce Franks (78th District) and Peter Merideth (80th District) were elected state representatives, joining WES member Clem Smith (85th District) in the Missouri House.
In early 2017, WES member Dan Guenther (Ward 9) was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
• St. Louis minimum wage hike – Through the spring and summer of 2015, WES played a major role in helping pass a St. Louis City minimum wage increase to $11 an-hour. “Our members rallied at City Hall, testified at Board of Aleermen hearings, met with aldermen, canvassed in our service wards and were a part of the larger coalition that eventually passed the wage increase,” Pecinovsky said.
Sadly, the increase rescinded when the Republican majority Missouri Legislature passed preemption legislation wiping out the increase and dropping the city’s minimum wage back to the state’s $7.70 an hour. A voter-approved increase in Kansas City was also prevented from taking effect.
• Advanced Skills Workforce Center In fall 2015, in partnership with the Painters District Council 58, WES helped found the Advanced Skills Workforce Center, which to-date has graduated more than 80 African-American men into the industry – union jobs, with union wages and benefits!
BOOTS ON THE GROUND
WES members have also provided a vital resource in efforts to give workers a voice at the ballot box. Their efforts have included:
• Collecting 2,000 signatures in the effort to place repeal of Missouri’s anti-worker “right-to-work” law on the 2018 ballot for voters to decide.
• Collecting 1,300 signatures so far in support of the CLEAN Missouri initiative for ethics reform in Missouri politics.
• Collecting signatures for a 2018 November ballot an initiative to raise Missouri’s minimum wage.
• WES leaders presented at the International Labor Communications Association’s conference in St. Louis held prior to the recent AFL-CIO convention to discuss challenges facing labor communicators across America.
• WES has made presentations to the SMART 36 Minority Inclusion Committee and Laborers Local 110’s general membership, and has helped Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 148 with educational material for its members and shop stewards.
WES leaders met with Labor Council President Pat White recently to discuss plans for 2018, including presentations to the Council’s Executive Board and delegate meetings.
“Of all of the great things we have accomplished over the past three years, it would not have been possible without Labor’s support, especially Painters District Council 58, Laborers 110, SMART 36, IUOE 148 and the Labor Council,” Pecinovsky said. “We thank everyone who has participated with us, helped to fund us and supported our wide-ranging activities to make St. Louis a better place for all workers.”