Jefferson City, MO - "We are doing what we can to put working people back to work. We are getting a double benefit from the stimulus money. We are rebuilding our infrastructure and creating jobs," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to about 300 union members at the annual AFL-CIO Missouri Political and Legislative Conference (MPLC) here March 29 and 30.
Nixon continued, "Others have turned down and pushed away the stimulus money. We are trying to get every penny." So far Missouri has received over $146 million in Recovery Act money. Along with other revenue, Missouri has "put $266 million into union construction jobs in the past 85 days," Nixon added
Additionally, the Nixon administration has filed 196 prevailing wage violations in the past year. Prevailing wage laws are designed to insure that non-union contractors cannot underbid union wages on publicly funded jobs.
Huey McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO told union members, "These are tough, tough times." But, "we've got to keep fighting. We've got to fight harder. We can't be afraid to say union."
McVey also talked about the Missouri budget. He said, "This budget is horrible, especially for state workers."
"Nearly 2,000 state employees have been laid-off in the past year," Bradley Harmon, president of the Missouri State Workers' Union (CWA-MSWU) Local 6355, told the World.
"This not only affects our members. It affects they people our members service, Missouri's most vulnerable citizens," Harmon added.
The Missouri State Workers' Union represents workers from the Department of Social Services and Youth Services, as well as other state employees.
"In these hard times Missourians need social services. They need access to unemployment benefits. They need access to Medicaid and Medicare. They need state assistance for groceries and other family necessities. We should have a balanced approach to fixing our budget."
"We have a revenue problem, not a budget problem. We should fix our budget by making corporations and the rich pay their fair share," Harmon concluded.
Additionally, Missouri's state employees are the worst paid state employees in the country. Bob Huss, vice president of the CWA retiree's chapter said, "We aren't even in the race to the bottom anymore. We are the bottom when it comes to state workers' pay."
U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan also addressed the conference. "While we've won some victories," she said, "Washington is still broken. And we've still got a fight on our hands."
"We've won health care for all Americans," she added. "But the moneyed interests have a stranglehold on the democratic process. As a result, it took more than a year to get common sense things done."
Katie Gulley, from the Blue Green Alliance said, "We need to expand the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. We need to create green jobs - blue collar jobs with a green purpose."
According to the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), Missouri could see a $2.9 billion net increase in investment revenue and 36,000 new jobs based on its share of federal clean-energy investments.
Additionally, according to PERI and CAP, clean-energy investments create 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending, whereas spending on fossil fuels only generate 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending.
Mark Habbas, from the International Association of Fire Fighters, talked about right-wing attempts to eliminate the Earnings Tax, which generates about 30-40 percent of the city budget for both St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. Additionally, it generates about 70 percent of state revenue.
According to Habbas, "Without a Earnings Tax our cities would crumble and our economy would be crippled. This will affect everybody." The Earnings Tax is used to pay fire fighters and police officers' salaries, as well as other vital public services.
Rex Sinquefield, a retired multi-millionaire investment banker, is the main funder of the right-wing initiative to repeal the Earnings Tax. If the Earnings Tax is repealed many Missourians fear that sales tax would increase by 12-15 percent, disproportionately affecting low-income, cash-strapped communities.
After the conference opening plenary union members lobbied at the state capitol, pressuring legislatures to support pro-union legislation.