Legislative Update Jan 27,2017

Policies enacted in city halls, county courthouses, state capitols and Washington D.C., matter.  They matter to us in the Trades and they matter to the non-union work force as well.  

Our democracy is hard, it is messy, it is ever changing and it is beautiful. There is no place quite like it on earth, but we must remain ever vigilant.

Jefferson City Update

In Missouri, the lines have clearly been drawn, and the party in leadership has done a masterful job of fast tracking harmful legislation, while labor leaders scramble to cover hearings, strategy sessions and legislative sessions.  Frankly, the anti-labor crowd has the power, they know it, we know it, and you should too.

Since the General Assembly has been in session we have seen in quick order: Right to Work, Prevailing Wage, Project Labor Agreements, Paycheck Deception, Changes to Workmans Comp, Unemployment and more harmful anti worker legislation that have been introduced.

RTW, which passed the Missouri Senate this week and will be heard in a Missouri House committee, in Jefferson City, Monday, at noon.

More information about SB19 (RTW) can be found here.

Once this bill is heard in Committee next week, the rules allow them to pass it out of executive committee at anytime and put it on the house Calendar. The  Governor could have SB19 as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Missouri Action Item

You can contact Governor Greitens by calling his office: Call the governor's office Monday and tell him to VETO Right to Work. It is very important we make the call. 1-573-751-3222.  

If you can not reach the Governor by phone, you can submit comments here. You may also contact the Governor by social media. Keep your tone polite, respectful but firm. If you are a Republican or a Veteran, highlight that. This legislation is harmful to your family and way of life, it is intrusive government overreach.  Right to Work and repealing Prevailing Wage will hurt Missouri families, union and non.  When wages go down, spending goes down, when spending goes down, jobs go away. It isn't rocket science. It's the economy and low paying jobs aren't good for anyone.

We are the job creators. We buy the products of our farmers, we buy goods and use services, we don't just build communities; without Missouri's middle class our communities will fail. When the foundation in your basement cracks you strengthen it, not hit it with a pick ax.

Your Union, Your Voice, Your Vote

I have been asked by Brothers and Sisters in my union or my husband’s union,  at various times in various ways why voting is important, why legislation matters, or expressed the view that the Union shouldn’t be involved in politics at all. 

Over the last few weeks a hundred times I have heard the indignity that is thought of when it comes to working people, the acceptance of lower wages as a given, the lowering of standards, the attacks on unemployment and prevailing wage, and they’ve only just begun.

Skilled labor built this country, built this community.

And always, and forever, the back of the working man is the first back they try to break.  

They do it in little ways, they introduce a city ordinance that the city must take the "lowest bidder", "We must save the taxpayers money!"  When you hear your leaders say that; please hear the truth: "We must save our donors money so we can all make more!"  How many schools, how many office buildings do our well trained, skilled workforce "fix"? How does that save any taxpayer money?  

They introduce anti worker bills in state capitols and in the halls of the U. S. Congress. They use dog whistles to stay in power and appeal to our lowest fears. "The jobs! It was a natural disaster, the recession, we're not growing!" Take your pick, I have heard them all this month.

In the last few weeks in the halls of our most sacred people's institution; I have watched a roofing contractor testify in favor of Right to Work who was really upset, because it was the Union that figured out his company was employing undocumented workers.  The glass contractor that testified in favor of Right to Work, but neglected to mentioned that her company was one of eighteen companies debarred from work by the Missouri Department of Labor.  

These guys are not on our side, and when I say our side, I mean the workers.  I see it time and again on social media community groups, folks are always looking for the "cheap" solution, as if my husbands time away from his family isn't worth something. As if your hard work isn't worth every penny you earn, your pension is yours because you've earned it. When did we become a society that devalued the very hard work that defines our values?

Labor Leaders Head to The White House

This last week at the White House something really positive happened; President Trump invited labor leaders to a face to face meeting about infrastructure.  We should welcome this news.  The NABTU and the IUPAT have been screaming for years about crucial infrastructure improvements needed in our communities and country. Projects that translate to good paying middle class jobs. LIUNA President O’Sullivan said on Hardball with Chris Matthews, after the meeting:  “He’s a builder, we’re builders.”, see that interview here.   We welcome a solid infrastructure plan that puts our members to work rebuilding the crumbling bridges in roads in our communities. Over 600 bridges have a critical rating in Missouri, over 600 here. If you drive on our highways you understand our challenges.

Wait, what is this? Oh, Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona has introduced legislation that would suspend Davis Bacon (Prevailing Wage on Highway projects), low paying wages for tough hard work. That is harmful, not helpful. Our budget deficits, the "reason" for this misguided legislation are harmed when there is less money in the economy, and when wages are suppressed, the amount of money we have to spend is depressed. The strain on our social safety nets increase, it is a vicious cycle of low wage poverty.

We should also be vigilant of policies that divide us as the middle class, the mentality of "we got ours, screw them." Missouri's state workers are the lowest paid in the nation and Missouri Legislators are attacking their pensions and benefits. Don't forget when you hear about our budget deficits that it was this very leadership group that overrode Governor Nixon's tax cut veto.  Their corporate buddies got theirs and who is going to get screwed? We are, Missouri Workers.

Prevailing Wage legislation will be heard in committee Tuesday morning in Jefferson City at 8.

Some background on Prevailing Wage: Davis Bacon or Prevailing Wage legislation was introduced by two Republicans as a way of ensuring fair standards for the same work. This gives protections to local workforces that they won’t be underbid by out of town, fly by night, unscrupulous contractors, that show up on a project, pay below the area standard, and disappear. 

Our contractors actually get a fair amount of “cleanup work”, they get called in to correct or sometimes completely redo projects, because the original work was not acceptable. This actually ends up costing taxpayers more money and time.  Prevailing Wage isn’t a Union vs Non Union policy, it is simply the median wage paid. In Missouri it is set county by county on an annual basis.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the jobs, a strong, long overdue infrastructure program, could bring. The NABTU, affiliates like mine and my husband’s unions spend millions of dollars on safety and training. Every generation pays for the next. That's how the model works, Davis Bacon, collective bargaining strength, marketshare of Union Contractors, all set the standard.

In the recession construction union and non were hit particularly hard. We are just beginning a strong comeback and yet there is a huge man power shortage. (SERIOUSLY). These are skilled trades. It takes time to learn how to build well. 

I'm for WHATEVER puts my members to work. Because right now, my membership has a pretty decent standard of living, work is great, our locals are growing, our apprenticeship is expanding. I worry more about policy than intentions. The lowest bidder, is often not the best. Our infrastructure, our schools, our roads and bridges, the water we drink; all of it. I want the best. 

The Struggle Always Continues

Since the beginning of time, it has always been David vs. Goliath. Everyone wants to believe they are Goliath, but we are David, and our struggles haven't really changed.

The struggle of the spartans is not so far from the struggle of John L. Lewis and the mine workers of the early 20th century, or Mother Jones and her crusades for children's labor rights and industrial workers.

The nominee for Secretary of Labor can barely hide his contempt for working families and what he makes in a day, some of his fast food workers don't make in a year. Do not for one minute believe that these millionaires and billionaires understand your struggle, they have never known the indignity of calling the utility company or going to a food bank.  They are not like you and me. They are Goliaths.

I'll give props when they are due. Labor Leaders were in the Oval Office IMMEDIATELY.

That says a lot.

As for the rest, I'm watching and organizing.

Always organizing.


Jessica Podhola, is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the IUPAT DC3, she is married to a 5th Year Apprentice of Plumbers Local 8. She is passionate about the American Labor Movement because it transformed her family's life. The Podhola's went from a working class poor existence, where they experienced times of severe struggle and employment insecurity that lead to them being on Missouri Welfare, to living the middle class American Dream, thanks to their Unions! Jess and her husband have 3 children. They are proud dues paying members.

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