A few thousand union members from across Missouri rallied at the Statehouse in Jefferson City on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, against a right-to-work referendum and for worker safety.
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, reminded the audience that 60 percent of Missourians rejected a right-to-work ballot measure in 1978.
“We told them (right-to-work backers) in ’78 that we didn’t want this, they’re back again,” Walsh says. “They’re going to be back every year, but we’re going to send a clear message to these folks come election time.”
Right-to-work says that a person cannot be required to join or refrain from joining a labor organization, as a condition of employment.
Walsh tells the audience that the right-to-work ballot referendum will lower wages for workers.
“Prop (Proposition) A wants to tear down what we (labor) built. Prop A means lower wages, fewer rights and less protection for your family,” says Walsh.
Walsh urges union members to knock on doors and make phone calls, saying labor will defeat right-to-work.
The right-to-work referendum, which is Proposition A, will appear on the November statewide ballot, unless the Legislature designates a different date.
Meantime, the Missouri House sponsor of the 2017 right-to-work measure signed by Governor Eric Greitens (R) disagrees with Senator Walsh’s warning that right-to-work will lead to lower wages and decreased safety protections.
State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, tells Missourinet right-to-work will increase union jobs in Missouri.
“I just really encourage the union members to stop listening to the union bosses, to go onto the Department of Labor website and look for themselves at how these other states have added jobs, union jobs and non-union jobs,” Rehder says.
Labor unions and their supporters were able to collect enough signatures to place the referendum on the statewide ballot, so Rehder’s bill, which was signed by Greitens in February 2017, is essentially on-hold until the ballot measure.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) delivered the keynote address on Wednesday, saying labor has built the middle class. She says right-to-work would hurt working families.
McCaskill also blasted Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), telling the audience Hawley supports right-to-work. She predicts she will beat Hawley in November.
McCaskill spoke briefly to Missourinet after her speech. She says she believes Hawley will capture the GOP Senate nomination in August, and will be her November opponent.
“I believe he’ll be the opponent because that’s who the Koch Brothers support and that’s who (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell supports, and generally when Mitch McConnell and the Koch Brothers support someone, they’re the nominee,” McCaskill tells Missourinet.
McCaskill is seeking her third Senate term in Washington this fall.
Hawley campaign spokeswoman Kelli Ford responds to McCaskill’s comments, telling Missourinet that “Claire McCaskill has sold Missouri’s vote to Hollywood and she’s taking (former President) Barack Obama out there with her to pick up the cash,” referring to Beverly Hills.
Many of the union members attending Wednesday’s rally stood on sidewalks and near parking areas. That’s because a $28.6 million construction project at the Capitol is underway. Recent heavy rains have also created muddy spots in the grass.
Fences and “road closed” signs have gone up around the Capitol, and parking has gotten more difficult.
Click here to listen to the full interview with Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) and “Jefferson City News-Tribune” reporter Bob Watson and Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth: