By ALAN J. ORTBALS
2018 witnessed a resounding victory by labor over the Missouri Legislature’s effort to make the Show Me State Right to Work.
Right to Work was one of the first bills signed into law by then-Gov. Eric Greitens last year. But union supporters hit the streets with petitions and gathered more than 300,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law last August. When put to the test, Right to Work lost by more than a 2 to 1 margin.
“I didn’t expect to win that big,” said Al Bond Jr., executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council. “I was hoping we could win by 20 percent and cut the head off that snake but we actually won by 34 percentage points. We only lost a couple counties and they were by slim margins.”
Bond said that voters understood that Right to Work was nothing but a race to the bottom; that it would lower wages; that it would hurt the state’s tax base; and that it would hurt job opportunities. According to Bond, the average family in Right to Work states sees their income decreased by $8,700 a year.
“Our message was pretty straightforward,” Bond said. “We just told the truth. We stayed consistent. I feel there should be a strong middle class and why these people oppose that I just don’t’ understand. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
There has been talk about reviving the legislation in the General Assembly’s 2019 session but Bond said he’s not worried about it.
“If you pass a law and then we get 310,000 signatures on petitions and we get it on the ballot and the people of Missouri speak and almost 70 percent of the people in this state oppose it,” Bond said, “you’ve got to have a lot of nerve to go to Jefferson City and try to pass it through the legislature again.”
Bond said that the state of construction is strong in the St. Louis region and he expects it to remain so in 2019. His biggest problem, he said, is finding enough carpenters but it’s one that he’s working diligently to rectify by recruiting from local high schools and community colleges.
In 2018, the Carpenters union broke ground on a new Wellness Center on the grounds of its hall on Hampton Ave. in south St. Louis. It’s expected to open next summer and will be managed by the Cerner Corp.
“This wellness center will provide Carpenters and their families a one-stop shop for the majority of their medical and preventive care needs with zero out-of-pocket costs,” Bond said. “By providing convenient care at no cost, we hope to improve the overall health of our membership while reducing health-care costs.”
By ALAN J. ORTBALS