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Politically Speaking: Sen. Walsh on 'right to work' and fallout from the Ferguson unrest

Sen. Gina Walsh
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Gina Walsh

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Tim Lloyd welcome state Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, to the program for the second time.

She represents the 13th District, a north St. Louis County area that encompasses portions of Ferguson and Dellwood. Walsh spent nearly three decades as part of the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local #1, and she's currently the president of the Missouri State Building & Construction Trades Council.

Walsh emerged as a major opponent of “right to work” legislation; it bars employers and unions from requiring workers to pay dues if a majority voted to organize. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the legislation earlier this year, and the Missouri House failed to override the governor’s objection.

(The sponsor of that bill, state Rep. Eric Burlison, is set to be on Politically Speaking next week.)

Additionally, Walsh was part of a committee looking into Nixon’s response to Ferguson unrest – especially how the National Guard responded after a grand jury declined to charge former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. That committee has met sporadically since being formed last year.

Here’s what Walsh had to say during the show:

  • While noting she’s been “a Democrat all her life” and “a labor person,” she said members of organized labor know that “right to work does not have a political party attached to it.” “A lot of the labor union members in St. Charles County are not Democrats. We’d like to think they are. But they’re not,” she said. “You can just look at the numbers out there and who they’re electing. So the folks on the other side of the aisle that voted to sustain the governor’s veto, they were representing the people that put them in office.”
  • Organized labor has been doing more to train minorities in the building trades.When asked why some think unions aren’t inclusive, Walsh said: “Because everybody would like to have a union job because of the pay that goes with it. But there’s not enough jobs out there anymore. It’s a dwindling market. And it’s easy to pick on the guy you can see. … You don’t see the contractors. You see the guys out there on the job site.”
  • She wasn’t pleased with how the governor responded to rioting after the grand jury decision.“I don’t think anybody was pleased who lived out there,” she said. “You should have a reasonable expectation of protection in your community. And that was completely absent.”
  • Walsh hopes the legislature will take a serious look at the Ferguson Commission report, especially its recommendations to bolster mass transit and "fair housing."
  • Walsh is the only lawmaker currently serving in the Missouri General Assembly who voted against putting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballot. She says she’s proud of that vote. “There’s no vindication,” she said. “I just thought it was a huge waste of time then, and it’s a huge waste of time now. I think what’s going on in Kentucky is crazy. Why do we need to beat up on people? And that’s all we’re doing.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLlloyd

Follow Gina Walsh on Twitter: @walshgina

Music: “Idioteque” by Radiohead

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.