Outpouring in Missouri Capital demands end to attacks on labor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – “Today we are united, side by side. We have to stick together. If we lose, everyone who works for a living will pay the price,” State Senator, Gina Walsh, told thousands of union members and their supporters as they rallied against anti-worker legislation here on the Capital lawn on Wednesday, March 26.

Walsh, who is also the president of the Missouri Building and Construction Trades Council, added, “Their number one priority is attacking your right to be in a union. It’s a dangerous agenda designed to lower your wages and silence your voice.”

Extremist leaders in the Missouri House are pushing a myriad of bills designed to weaken trade unions – and silence the workers they represent – here in the Show Me State.

For example, HB 1617, also known as ‘Paycheck Protection,’ and HB 1770, also known as ‘Right-to-Work’ or ‘Worker Freedom,’ are on the House calendar and could be brought to the floor at any time.

Both HB 1617 and HB 1770 would dramatically weaken unions, as they would ban ‘union shops’ and make it more difficult for unions to collect dues. If passed, the bills would drive down wages and working conditions for all Missourians.

It is estimated that Missouri families would lose between $1,945 and $2,547 a year per-household if ‘Right-to-Work’ were passed. Additionally, lower wages would mean less money for schools, roads, bridges and social services vital to a vibrant, modern economy.

Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, added, so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ would “pull the rug out from under hard working folks.” He vowed to veto any anti-worker legislation that makes it to his desk.

“We cannot lift up our economy by tearing down workers,” he added. “‘Right-to-Work’ is wrong. It’ll move our state backwards. It is an ill-conceived race to the bottom. We’ve defeated it in the past. And we’ll stop it again – just like we did in 1978.”

It was in 1978 that the National Right-to-Work Committee was able to place on the Missouri ballot an initiative to pass ‘Right-to-Work’ by popular vote. Many trade unionists fear that the republican dominated Missouri legislature will attempt a similar ballot initiative this fall.

The 1978 ‘Right-to-Work’ initiative was defeated overwhelmingly, with over 60 percent of Missouri voters voting against it.

However, with a shrinking union membership as a percentage of the electorate, Missouri union leaders know that they will have to reach-out far beyond labor’s ranks if they are going to defeat a similar initiative – if it makes it to the November ballot.

Secretary of State, Jason Kander, told the assembled union members, “I feel good. I feel optimistic. The reinforcements are here. The cavalry has arrived. I believe in workers’ rights.”

Kander echoed a widely held view that outside special interests like ALEC and the Koch brothers are the real backers behind the anti-worker push. He said, “I know Missourians are not clamoring for lower wages and fewer benefits.”

Kander, a former U.S. Army Captain and United Transportation Union Local 933 member, said so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ and ‘Paycheck Protection’ are nothing but veiled attempts to “go after your rights and go after your voice.”

Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, added, “Powerful politicians want to cut your pay. They believe Missouri would be a better place if you made less money, if you had less power to bargain with, if they scrapped your pension, and if they divided you from one another. That is what ‘Right-to-Work’ is all about.”

“They want to cut the pie a little more in their favor,” Koster continued. “That’s not my vision of a better Missouri.”

Moderate Republican representative, Anne Zerr (R-65), said, unions provide “protection and guaranteed wages.”

“Labor is not the enemy,” she vowed to tell other republicans “very quietly and very patiently. We’re not going to do it by fighting. We’re going to do it by education.”

In fact, “Working with unions is good business,” she added, as people with money in their pockets make our economy grow, which is something we all want regardless of party affiliation.

Democratic representative, Jake Hummel, fired the crowd up when he said, “This is what the union movement looks like in Missouri.”

“We are under attack like never before. Our way of life is being threatened so millionaires can strip a few more dollars from your pockets,” Hummel added. “They want more, more, more! But they need to know that we are sick of this attack and we’re not going to put up with it.”

“While labor is at a cross roads, it is also in the cross hairs. This isn’t just about us, it’s about all workers. And we have to fight! Take it home. Take it to your job sites. Take it to the ballot box. Remember those who stood with us and those who stood against us.”

Hummel, who is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 1, concluded, “I want to look back and say, ‘I was there when we beat ‘Right-to-Work’ in Missouri.'” 


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.