JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (PAI and St. Louis Labor Tribune) – It was a close call in Jefferson City, but the Republican-run state senate narrowly upheld Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the right-wing Republicans’ “paycheck protection” scheme, which workers call “paycheck deception.” That kills the bill, at least for this year.
The 22-10 Senate tally fell one vote short of the 23 votes needed to override Nixon and write paycheck deception into state law. Earlier, the GOP-run Missouri House voted to override Nixon’s veto, 109-47.
The paycheck deception bill, HB1891, is one of a raft of anti-worker bills pushed through the Republican-run state legislature – and not just in Missouri. Similar bills have passed GOP-run legislatures, and were signed by GOP governors, elsewhere nationwide.
Other such Republican anti-worker moves in states include so-called right to work laws, bans on project labor agreements, decertification of public worker unions, restrictions on voting rights and even denial of teacher tenure – all part of the massive national right wing campaign against workers, their families and their allies.
Missouri’s paycheck deception bill would have required public employees such as nurses, teachers, social workers and other public workers to give annual written consent for money to be taken out of their paychecks for union dues or political activity.
“We thank and applaud the members of the Senate who stood up for working people and voted to sustain Gov. Nixon’s veto of this flawed paycheck deception bill,” said state AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “The sole purpose of this legislation was to weaken and ultimately silence the voices of those who speak up for working families.”
Thousands of union members lobbied against the bill and the veto override during a rally in Jefferson City on March 30, as well as making phone calls and sending letters to their lawmakers.
AFSCME members like Travis Case, a shopkeeper employed in the Missouri Department of Corrections, and Malissa Parker, a certified nursing assistant at the Missouri Veterans Nursing Center, called their legislators, wrote letters, sent e-mails and signed petitions opposing the legislation. Hundreds of AFSCME members joined other union members and allies for the March rally.
Missouri Jobs with Justice delivered nearly 400 letters from faith and community leaders to legislators, moved prominent community allies to speak out against attacks on workers, and testified against the legislation.
“This is a back-door way to right-to-work,” AFT Local 420 President Mary Armstrong of St. Louis said before the House vote. “They’re not saying you can’t have dues deduction, but they’re saying you have to get written permission each year. That’s costly to an organization. We don’t have the staff to do that and it’s costly to the school district because they have to re-input that information every year.”
Now that the legislative session has ended, union leaders said the focus must be on this fall’s election and supporting worker-friendly candidates.
“We know big corporations won’t stop in their efforts to silence the voices of working people,” Louis said. “So we will focus our efforts on electing candidates this November that will support all working families and oppose legislation like paycheck deception.”
Nancy Cross, vice president of Service Employees Local 1 Missouri Division, said the solution is to change the makeup of the legislature by getting more worker-friendly candidates into office. “There are a number of seats available for us to take back this fall,” she said. “And I think all of labor will be working together.”
The Senate’s eight lonely Democrats first tried to talk the bill to death before the override vote, launching a 4-hour filibuster. They – and especially workers – convinced two of the Republican majority, state Sens. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City and Gary Romine of Farmington, to cross party lines and vote to uphold Gov. Nixon’s veto.
“I’m grateful for those folks that came to our side from other side of aisle,” Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, said of the veto’s two Senate Republican backers. “I’m glad they recognized this for what it was.”
Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, was a “no” vote earlier in the session, but switched his vote. Silvey and Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, voted “yes” initially to pass the bill, but switched their votes on the veto override. Keaveny said the bill attacking working Missourians was unnecessary “in more ways than one.”
“In my opinion they were attacking the people that least deserve to be attacked. Most of these jobs are barely middle class jobs. In fact, they’re less than middle class. The health care workers and social workers and janitors. I guess they decided to pick on people that can least defend themselves and I’m glad they weren’t successful,” he said.
State Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, a retired member of the Heat and Frost Insulators, said HB1891 was bad for Missouri’s working families and, by weakening unions, would have created a bigger divide between the haves and the have-nots.
“It’s mean-spirited and has no place in the Missouri legislature,” Walsh said. “America was founded on people bettering themselves and getting together to organize and bargain collectively, just like we do, for better hours and wages and health care. We have philosophical differences in the Legislature, and I respect that, but I’m not going to sit down when working men and women of this state are under attack.”
Tim Rowden is Editor, St. Louis Labor Tribune