Addressing the MTD Convention, two labor leaders saluted the important actions that prevented so-called “right to work” from becoming law in Missouri. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis both used their October 20 presentations to applaud the efforts of union workers throughout the Show-Me State who helped stop the passage of the bill.
As described by Louis, “We set out back in February knowing that on Feb. 6, the governor signed a right-to-work law that was passed in less than a month by the Missouri legislature. Rammed down our throats. We couldn’t even talk to the governor; he wouldn’t let Labor in the room. We knew then we had one option – our nuclear option – and that was to collect signatures to put it on the ballot, and let the people of Missouri decide whether or not Missouri should be a right-to-work state. We needed to collect 107,000 signatures, but we didn’t get there. Instead, we collected 310,567 signatures.”
He continued, “November 6, 2018, is going to be a big, big day here in Missouri. It’s the day we’re going to repeal right to work. What we have done is good. We stopped it from becoming law. It would have been law on October 28. On September 16, we turned in the signatures, and that law is held in abeyance. It will not become law now. But in November of 2018 we need your help.”
He concluded by expressing his gratitude to those who supported his state’s fight, saying, “I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done for us. I want to thank you all for going forward with us. And I want you to be here in November of 2018 with us with when we say, ‘Missouri is not a right-to-work state!’ Right to work is a rip-off. We know it is, it’s always going to be a rip-off. And it’s over in Missouri, move your show somewhere else!”
These sentiments would later be echoed by Trumka, when he addressed the recent victory in his speech: “Right here in St. Louis I’ve been told all about the Port Council’s hard work and commitment to the ‘We Are Missouri’ campaign against [so-called] right to work. You heard my brother, Mike Louis. Mike, you’re doing a great, great job in leading and fighting an evil law that’s designed to lower wages and hurt working people. I want to thank you for that.”
Despite that recent win, working people in Missouri are still under attack. According to Trumka, “We won’t stop when politicians cut the pay of the poorest and hardest working people among us, as they did right here in St. Louis – Mike can tell you this. The right-wing Missouri legislature actually passed legislation lowering the minimum wage from $10 back down to $7.70. Now, I got to tell you, that’s indefensible. We’re not going to take it. Mike’s right. Every one of them that vote to do that is no friend of working people. And on Election Day, we’re going to remember them – remember them really well.”
Trumka then turned his attention to the future of the Labor Movement, saying, “We’re going to take America back. Quite frankly, it’s high time that we did so. Because it’s not too much to ask for because we make the ships, we build the roads, we teach the classes, we lift the loads, we do the jobs. We never run, and we never hide. Brothers and sisters, we are the North American Labor Movement, and we will not be denied. This is our country, and it is time that we took it back for the workers of this country.”
In a possible portent of making such a future a reality, Trumka noted that union popularity is on the rise: “I find myself looking around at a Labor Movement that’s more focused, more unified, and more intent on winning than ever before,” he said. “And we’re more popular than we’ve been in a very, very, very long time. The latest Gallup poll shows 61 percent of Americans approve of unions. That’s a 14-year high. And collective action is on the rise. More and more workers are standing together and confronting corporate power head on.”
He then discussed ongoing relief efforts in Puerto Rico, and the anti-labor attacks that continued despite the facts. Trumka said, “Brothers and sisters, we won’t stop. We won’t stop when politicians still use a hurricane as an excuse to attack the Jones Act. And that cheap shot against American-flag vessels came at exactly the time you and your union brothers and sisters were organizing aid for Puerto Rico. We were putting supplies in containers on the ships as they were attacking us. They didn’t ask us to put that on. We saw a need, and we moved to fill that need.
“We sent 340 skilled union members on a single plane with 80,000 pounds of cargo into Puerto Rico,” he continued. “They’re still there. They’ll be coming back in the next couple of days. We sent nurses and doctors, we sent carpenters, we sent ironworkers, we sent electricians, we sent plumbers, we sent operating engineers. We sent the skilled people that were needed to recover from that. And yet, while we’re doing that, the governor of Puerto Rico takes a cheap shot at us. Well, we’re doing it ourselves because the federal government couldn’t get the job done without us. Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this: We’ll stand up for the Jones Act anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and we’ll do it as a single unified Labor Movement. All of us, locked arms, standing together.”
In closing, Trumka offered: “If you only remember one thing from my remarks today, remember this. We’re not going to settle for merely surviving as a Labor Movement. That’s not good enough. We’re going to thrive. We’re going to take on these fights and come out on the other side stronger and change the rules of this economy so that every kid that wakes up in the morning has a fair shot at getting a good job and a good education, and that every kid that goes to bed at night doesn’t go to bed with an empty stomach! They got a fair shot at a good quality of life because the Labor Movement – the Labor Movement – opened up those opportunities!”