JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - "We are here to let these people know what is really going on," said Missouri State Workers' Union (MSWU-CWA 6355) president Bradley Harmon to about 250 union members here on the Capital steps March 30.
"If you want good services, you have to stop stealing from public employees," he yelled as legislators continue to debate taking away workers' rights through so-called right-to-work and pay check deception legislation.
"You have to stop stealing from the disabled, from children, and from senior citizens," Harmon continued. "Everyday our work is vital to the state of Missouri. Without us Missouri stops."
The MSWU and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) called the lobby day to bring attention to Missouri's public workers, the worst paid public workers in the nation. The average public worker in Missouri makes about $32,000 annually and hasn't had a pay raise in three years.
Additionally, last year state workers agreed to contribute 4 percent of their salaries to their pensions, the state mileage rate was cut to $.37 cents and out-of-pockets health care costs have increased with higher premiums and deductibles.
Over the past year over 3,000 state worker jobs have been cut, but the state's budget problems persist.
Clark Brown from SEIU said to the group, "You are our face, the face of state workers. They want to blame our states' fiscal problems on you, but the average state worker makes about 15 percent less than their private sector counterparts." Brown continued, "The fact is they are picking on us. They need to get off our backs and stop blaming us."
The Missouri House and Senate are both republican dominated. One of their top priorities this legislative session is SB 202, known as pay check deception.
"Pay check deception would bankrupt us," said Brown. "It would be the death of state workers" and lead to worker discrimination, he added.
SB 202 would institute up-to an $8 surcharge every pay-period for union dues deductions, robbing unions of much needed dues moneys. Additionally, SB 202 singles out union dues deductions specifically where-as other deductions (charities, etc.) do not have the same surcharge.
According to Herb Johnson, MO AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, "SB 202 would eliminate your ability to participate in the political process. It is an unconstitutional piece of crap. And we're going to kill this bill."
Missouri state workers are also concerned about so-called right-to-work legislation, SB1. Simply put, so-called right-to-work legislation outlaws "union shops" by forcing unions to represent workers who do not pay union dues. This legislation would weaken all unions, and lower pay and benefits for all workers.
Workers in so-called right-to-work states make about $5,500 less on average than their counterparts in other states. Additionally, 78 percent of union employers provide health care, where-as 51 percent of non-union employers do not provide health care, and 77 percent of union employers provide defined benefits pensions, where-as only 20 percent of non-union employers do.
"If we let this happen we're not going to have unions in Missouri," emphasized Brown. But, "We are one!" he said. "Right-to-work? Not in our state! Pay check deception? Not in our state!"
Image: Mark Esters, MSWU-CWA 6355/PW