Missouri unions fight right-to-work legislation

ST. CHARLES, Mo – “The truth is right-to-work is bad for workers and bad for Missouri,” Dave Cook, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655, told about 200 union stewards and activists as they rallied here at Frontier Park on April 8.

“‘Right-to-work means no rights at work,” Cook continued. “This is nothing more than a politically motivated attack on workers designed to eliminate your voice.”

Cook’s union represents over 9,000 grocery store employees at Schnucks, Dierbergs and Shop-N-Save in the greater St. Louis area, all of whom will face lower wages and fewer benefits if the Republican controlled Missouri legislature gets its way.

“Right-to-work isn’t economic development. It won’t create any jobs,” Cook added. “Have the courage to call it what it is – union busting.”

Currently 24 states are considered right-to-work laws.

According to the AFL-CIO, the average worker in right-to-work states makes about $1,500 less per-year than their union counter-parts other states. Additionally, median household income in right-to-work states is about $6,400 less, and more workers are stuck in low-wage occupations – 26.7 percent compared to 19.5 percent. Furthermore, unemployment is higher in right-to-work states.

Frontier Park is in Republican Senator Pro Tem Tom Dempsey’s district. Dempsey recently voted with other right-wing extremists in the state senate for SB29, a paycheck deception bill designed to restrict the ways in-which unions can collect and spend membership dues.

Cook and other union leaders are fearful that Dempsey will also support right-to-work legislation.

He said the union represents 861 members in Dempsey’s District, and added, “I want to make it clear to every elected official: We will not back down. We will not stop.”

Trish Medina, a Local 655 shop steward, told the People’s World, right-to-work and paycheck deception “will affect all workers in this state, not just unions.”

She echoed Cook’s sentiments and added, right-to-work and paycheck deception are designed to make us “voiceless, to make sure we are not part of the political process.”

Medina, who has been a cashier at a local Dierbergs for 12 years, said right-to-work and paycheck deception are all about “putting more money in CEO pockets.” She added, “They want everything and won’t be happy until we’re forced to work until we drop, with no retirement.”

“It’s just not right. And it’s all for corporate greed,”

Tamsen Whistler, pastor of the Trinity Episcopal Church, said she is opposed to right-to-work and paycheck deception “as a voter and a Christian. I hope Dempsey listens to his constituents and works to create jobs, not destroy jobs.”

Jobs and the economy was a central theme of the rally, as it is widely understood by most economists that the fragile economic recovery hinges on increased consumer spending. Lowering wages by breaking unions will not help fix our economy, they argue.

Which led Cook to ask: “Why do you want to tear us down Sen. Dempsey? Why do you want to cut the paychecks of the people driving the economy?”

Cook concluded, “We want jobs, not hardship and unemployment. We deserve better than this.”

Photo: After the rally, everybody took out their cell phones to call Sen. Dempsey. Tony Pecenovsky/PW



Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.