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Organized labor rallies against right-to-work law, other bills

Erin Achenbach | St. Louis Public Radio
Several hundred union members rallied on the south side of the Missouri Capitol on March 28, 2018.

Several hundred union members rallied Wednesday in Jefferson City against the right-to-work law state lawmakers passed last year.

In November, voters will go to the polls to decide on Proposition A, and a “yes” vote would uphold Senate Bill 19, a controversial bill signed by Gov. Eric Greitens last year that would enact a right-to-work law. The law, which effectively was suspended until voters decide its fate, mandates that no person can be required to join a labor union or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment.

“Prop A means lower wages, fewer rights and less protection for you families,” said Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, addressing the crowd gathered on the south lawn of the Capitol. “If Prop A passes, Eric Greitens and [Attorney General] Josh Hawley get their wish.”

Those critical of “right-to-work” legislation say that it lowers wages and reduces the ability of unions to stand up for their workers. Supporters on the other hand say that it makes Missouri a more competitive state when it comes to creating new jobs.

Credit Erin Achenbach | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R), State senators Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors; Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis; and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., were among the speakers at the rally.

  “It is the labor leaders that came before you that struggled and fought for a safe working place, for decent wages, for benefits you can count on,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said in her speech to the crowd Wednesday. “It is in fact the labor unions of this state that have made the middle class work.”

McCaskill also criticized Attorney General Josh Hawley, who aims to unseat her next fall, and his donors. They have tried to paint her as an elitist.

“Only an elitist would think it is a good idea to remove power from the workers,” she said, referring to Hawley’s donors who back right-to-work legislation.

Following the passage of Senate Bill 19 last year, union-led forces petitioned and collected enough signatures to put the prospective new law to a ballot vote, allowing Missouri voters the chance to weigh in. Lawmakers could decide to move the vote up to August.

At the rally, union members also decried several bills they said would weaken labor unions in Missouri.

“We got a lot of work coming up in the future,” said Sen. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, who’s also secretary-treasurer for the Missouri AFL-CIO. “We’ve got to prevent and undo some terrible policies that have been enacted by this legislature and that governor.”

Follow Erin on Twitter: @erinaachenbach

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