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Mar
2014
28

Nearly 1000 Protest “Right-to-Work,” Paycheck Deception, Wage-Slashing at Missouri Capitol

Photo by Marie French

Photo by Marie French



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Close to a thousand union members joined at the Missouri state capitol this week to protest “Right-to-Work” legislation currently being considered by the legislature.  House Speaker Tim Jones has made anti-union legislation a top priority with three harmful bills being considered.  

Speaking to the gathered crowd, Governor Jay Nixon promised to veto any attempt to make Missouri the 25th “Right-to-Work” state.  However, one of the bills, HB 1053, would put the issue up for a vote in the November election.  Nixon told the crowd he would help them fight HB 1053 if that was the method used by the GOP:

“This latest attempt to make Missouri a ‘right-to-work’ state is unnecessary and misguided,” Nixon said. “‘Right to work’ is wrong and would move our state backward. Everybody here knows what would happen if (any of those bills make) it to my desk, OK?”

“But if they try to go around me and put this wrong-headed legislation for a vote of the people, I will stand right beside you and we will fight and win just like we did in 1978.”

“Right-to-Work” is a bit of a zombie legislation in Missouri. It has been defeated dozens of times over the past few decades.

Nixon lambasted the Missouri GOP’s package of anti-union bills. The trio of legislation includes a “paycheck protection” bill (commonly referred to as “paycheck deception” in pro-worker circles) and major cuts to the prevailing wage.  

The driving force behind the host of bad bills is Jones, a likely candidate for Governor is 2016.  One of his predicted opponents contenders, Attorney General Chris Koster, also spoke at the rally.  He used the example of a bridge that spanned the Missouri River and stretched to Nebraska to demonstrate the negative effect “Right-to-Work” has on wages:

“When the contractor pulled up the wage sheets for the two states, he realized that laborers on the Missouri side made $31.56 an hour, while the laborers on the Nebraska side made $8.30 an hour,” Koster said.  “The contractor on the Rulo bridge project was shamed into paying everyone on that job Missouri’s wage.”

He went on to blast his would-be opponents for their support of this legislation, saying, “That may be Tim Jones’ vision for a better Missouri, that may be (state Auditor) Tom Schweich’s vision for a better Missouri, but it’s not my vision for a better Missouri.”

Also speaking to the crowd was Republican State Rep. Anne Zerr who disagrees with her party’s collective ‘wisdom’ regarding workers rights:

“Do we need ‘right to work’? No!” Zerr shouted along with the crowd.  “As chair of the Economic Development Committee and as a (pro business) Republican, you might think that I would  be anti-labor…but you know what?  Working with labor is good business practice, and you get what you pay for!”

In addition to zealots like Jones, dark money is adding fuel to the anti-union fire. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is “hoping to get what they paid for.” In fact, according to a report from Progress Missouri, there have been over 20 pieces of ALEC model legislation introduced in the Missouri legislature since the beginning of 2013.  Among them are the flurry of “Right-to-Work” plans.  

After the rally Jones took to the friendly confines of conservative talk radio where he lamented the challenges of doing ALEC’s bidding:

“I would think that the workers in the state of Missouri would want the same freedom of choice in whether or not they have to be forced to join an organization as a condition of work or how they want their wages spent as far as union dues that workers in our bordering states have.”

Missouri’s workers don’t appear to be falling for the ruse and a referendum at the ballot box could bring about unprecedented voter participation to prove it.  This could spell doom for Republicans in tight mid-term races who favor “Right-to-Work.” Still, the sheer amount of money the far right is willing to spend to muddy the waters and distort the truth should guarantee an ugly scene, and a close call, come November.

In order to combat the push of outside money, Missouri’s unions will have to rally their base to get out a clear, undeniable message.  State. Sen. Gina Walsh, who is also the president of the Missouri Building and Construction Trades Council, elucidates it well:

“For too many members in this building, their priority is attacking your right to be in a union,” Walsh said. “If we lose, the whole middle class, everyone who works for a living, will lose.”

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