Missouri Gov. Greitens signs ban on project labor agreements
David Cummings/AP

EARTH CITY, Mo. (PAI) — With union-hating Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beaming at his side, right-wing Missouri GOP Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill on May 31 banning local governments from entering into Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).

The so-called “Fairness In Public Construction Act” – another blatant attack on unions, made all the more obvious by Walker’s presence – bans PLAs, which require contractors to pay union wages and abide by collective bargaining agreements for public works projects.

It’s also the latest plank in a shipload of anti-worker anti-union legislation being pushed in GOP-controlled states nationwide.

Following Wisconsin’s lead

Other such measures include Walker’s infamous Bill 10, which trashed public unions in the Badger State, cuts in workers’ comp in several GOP-run states, so-called “right to work” laws in Missouri and Kentucky, and almost complete revocation of teacher tenure – advocated by anti-union GOP big giver Betsy DeVos, now U.S. Education Secretary – in Michigan.

Under the new law, Missouri’s cities and counties will lose state funding or tax credits for two years if they require a PLA. That includes St. Louis, where then-Mayor Francis Slay signed an executive order in September 2015 requiring PLAs on publicly funded and publicly aided projects worth more than $500,000 each, if the state provides less than half the money.

Walker, who has waged a relentless war against unions in his own state, signed a PLA ban in Wisconsin in April.

“Gov. Greitens wants you to believe this is about saving tax dollars, but the presence of Scott Walker at the signing makes clear this is union-busting, plain and simple,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis told the St. Louis Labor Tribune. “Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest for job creation.”

But Louis singled out Walker for taking the anti-worker, anti-union lead – and for its negative effects – and Greitens for following him.

“Since 2010, Walker has failed to deliver the 250,000 jobs he promised. Why Missouri would follow the lead of Wisconsin is a mystery. Missourians want our elected leaders to focus on building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

Calling Greitens’ move “government overreach, Louis said Missouri has a state “House and Senate full of legislators who ran as candidates saying we need less government, who now are enacting more and more overreach into business and local government at the expense of working families,” Louis said.

“PLAs ensure a safe, trained workforce on public construction projects like schools, roads and bridges by guaranteeing quality, on-time work on a tight budget. They protect the public investment by weeding out unqualified contractors and keeping projects on schedule, with fewer injured workers and no strikes or work disputes,” Louis added.

“Now, thanks to Gov. Greitens and certain Republicans in the Missouri legislature, local governments will no longer have that tool to ensure safe, quality work on our public buildings and infrastructure, and we all will pay the price.”

A “slap in the face” to workers

Construction union leaders were equally upset, since PLAs not only benefit their members, but citizens and developers, too.

“This is a slap in the face to trained union workers and the safety and investment of Missouri taxpayers,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, whose union members will take a direct hit from the ban.

“It threatens the safety of workers and the quality of construction on our public buildings. And it will cost Missouri taxpayers more when that construction has to be repaired or replaced.

“Our governor and our legislature think the way to cure all of the state’s ills is to take it out on the backs of workers, but they’re hurting the very people they were elected to represent,” Stiffler said.

Walker’s presence seemed to indicate Greitens is performing more for a national audience than for the people of Missouri. Walker chairs the Republican Governors Association, a national GOP organization that held a “corporate policy summit” at last month at a Miami resort owned by Republican President Donald Trump.

Greitens attended that summit. And the Kansas City Star reports Greitens has made several trips to Washington to meet with members of Trump’s administration and to attend the ritzy and secretive Alfalfa Club Dinner, an event the Washington Post describes as a gathering of “some of the richest and most powerful people in the world.”

Ironically, Walker ran for the GOP presidential nomination, too, in 2016, on an explicitly anti-union anti-worker platform. To the glee of union leaders, he became the first candidate to drop out. And when he did so, he urged the then-remaining hopefuls to unite against Trump. They didn’t.

Stephen Webber, chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, said Walker’s invitation to the signing “only serves to show that Greitens is attacking local workers in order to impress big money and corporate donors from around the country.” Greitens is widely considered to be eying a possible run for president and has already reserved the website domain EricGreitensForPresident.com.

The PLA ban is just the latest anti-worker legislation to come out of the Missouri state capital of Jefferson City. Greitens signed so-called “right-to-work” legislation in February. The anti-worker, anti-union law is set to take effect Aug. 28, but workers across Missouri are circulating a citizens’ referendum petition that would prevent it from taking effect and allow the state’s voters to decide the issue in 2018.

And last month, the GOP-dominated state Senate passed legislation repealing the minimum wage increase recently enacted in St. Louis and blocking a similar increase in Kansas City. The state House also passed legislation making it more difficult to prove workplace and housing discrimination. That shameful bill was sponsored by a Republican Senator who owns a rent-to-own business that’s being sued for discrimination.

Anti-worker legislation left on the table as the Legislature ended its session include a “paycheck protection” (paycheck deception) bill, requiring public employees to opt in each year for union dues to be taken out of their paychecks, and a repeal of Missouri’s prevailing wage law. Those measures could come to pass if Greitens calls additional special sessions of the legislature, which he has indicated he might do.


CONTRIBUTOR

Tim Rowden
Tim Rowden

Tim Rowden is an award-winning writer and editor with 25 years of progressive experience in daily, weekly and online journalism, media relations, and advocacy journalism, including editor of the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, and reporter and bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Press Associates Inc.
Press Associates Inc.

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.

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