With over 400 delegates attending from the Communication Workers, Electrical Workers, Machinists, Steelworker and Auto Workers, the annual legislative conference got underway Monday morning at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, MO.
Speakers included Mo State AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey, Congressman Russ Carnahan, Attorney General Chris Koster, Governor Jay Nixon and Treasurer (and Teamster member) Clint Zweifel. All spoke of the current legislative session and, in what has become a familiar annual refrain, highlighted the many anti-labor bills currently under consideration and in the pipeline in the state House and Senate. Other elected officals were also on hand and pledged to do all possible to once again defeat – or filibuster – those bills.
Nixon remarked that, since he became governor, the rights of workers have been under such constant assault, that he started to feel like the ‘goalie for democracy.’ He noted that the House recently cut funding for investigations of labor violations but vowed to fight to get it back in the budget. He noted with pride that Missouri has 41,000 more union members than when he first took office (that drew a lot of applause). After Nixon had left, I heard at least one person comment that, with the current Republican majority in the House and Senate, our Democratic governor has been all that stood between Missouri becoming another Wisconsin.
One of the most dynamic speakers was State Representative Stacey Newman from the Clayton/Richmond Heights area. Newman informed the gathering of plans afoot that are designed to curtail voter turnout. She said that 250,000 long-term Missouri voters were being targeted and noted that the last documented case of voter impersonation fraud to occur in the state of Missouri was back in 1936 – in the gangster era of Kansas City.
Following that morning’s session, members visited the capitol where they met with their legislators and discussed legislative issues. Tuesday saw more leigislative visits and a labor rally held on the capitol steps. Busses full of building trades members from around the state drove in for the rally, which was estimated at over 5,000 strong.
Tuesday evening a reception was hosted by the AFL-CIO. Many elected officials attended the event and, in what I believe portends well for labor’s future, I spoke with friendly office holders from both sides of the aisle.