Workers Rack Up Big Win In Missouri, Smashing Right-to-Work by Huge Margin

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Workers racked up a big win in Missouri on August 7, smashing the right-wing’s campaign for a so-called “right to work” law in the Show Me State by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

With all precincts reporting, there were 937,241 “no” votes -- against RTW -- and only 452,075 “yes” votes. The result killed the RTW law the heavily right-wing Republican Missouri legislature passed and then-GOP Gov. Eric Greitens signed last year.

Indications RTW was going down the drain came very early after the polls closed at 8 pm, CDT. Just 45 minutes later, National Public Radio’s blog reported anti-RTW sweeps in two pro-GOP counties, Franklin County, outside St. Louis – a 3-to-1 RTW loss – and Lafayette County, outside Kansas City.

There, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump won by 7,000 votes two years ago and RTW lost on August 7 by 3,000.

“This goes way beyond the labor movement,” an elated Mike Louis, president of the state AFL-CIO, told Press Associates Union News Service in a telephone interview from the jam-packed election celebration.

“This has been a great victory of a coalition to pout the middle class back the way it was – and not be a class where people work in poverty while a few people get richer and richer.”

But even after knocking on 800,000 doors in the run-up to the August 7 vote, making more than a million phone calls and talking to people at more than 1,000 job sites, the state fed won’t stop there, Louis added.

“We thank all the people who put us in this position in the first place,” he said, referring to labor’s community, civic, religious and other allies, as well as the 310,000 people who signed petitions to get the anti-RTW petition on the state ballot.

“But those who stood up for corporate America instead of looking after their constituents had better be looking over their shoulders,” Louis said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the Missouri win “the latest sign of a true groundswell, and working people are just getting started.”

In an on-line recorded statement, Trumka called 2018 “the year of the worker.” He added “working people will not accept an economy that works only for the few.”

“Defeat of this poisonous anti-worker legislation is a victory for all workers across the country,” Trumka added in a prepared statement. “The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Proposition A (the pro-RTW initiative) is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determina-tion. Tonight is the latest act of working people changing a rigged system that for decades has been

favoring corporations, the mega wealthy and the privileged few.”

Outside special interests, a right-wing business executive from the extremely conservative southwestern Missouri city of Joplin and Greitens – whose “dark money” campaign committee raised and spent $2 million – funded the RTW effort. But, in an upset, they were actually outspent, as well as outworked. And workers and their allies rolled out at least one national big gun of their own: Former Vice President Joe Biden.

“If union workers don’t make a fair wage, every other worker loses,” Biden told St. Louis Labor Tribune publisher Ed Finkelstein during a July 25 visit to the city. “We fought hard to keep it (right-to-work) out of Delaware,” his state. “It’s not in the best interests of workers,” in Missouri or anywhere.

The Missouri defeat of RTW was one of several notable results in the August 7 primaries. Others with national implications included:

• Teamsters attorney Brent Welder narrowly lost the Democratic primary race in the 3rd District, based in Kansas City. “Our message of bold progressive values and not taking corporate money is resonating across Kansas and across the country,” he told the chanting “Yes, we Kansas!” crowd as returns came in after midnight, but before the totals turned around. Welder’s platform included Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage and opposition to right-to-work, which is law in Kansas.

Welder picked up all the union endorsements and all but one – Emily’s List – from the progressive groups, too. Sharice Davids had Emily’s List in her corner, and won by 3.4 percentage points (37.3 percent-33.9 percent) and 2,088 votes. She faces incumbent Kevin Yoder, considered one of the most-vulnerable Republicans in the country. Hillary Clinton carried the district by a small margin while losing the state by 20 percentage points to Trump.

The big story in Kansas was the Republican gubernatorial primary. Trump endorsed, and made robo-calls for, controversial extreme right-winger Kris Kobach, the GOP Secretary of State, who challenged incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer. Kobach is nationally infamous for writing anti-Hispanic state legislation – for Kansas and elsewhere – and for his extreme anti-minority tilt as chair of Trump’s “election fraud” commission, which never found any fraud.

With all precincts in, Kobach led Colyer by 191 votes out of 311,009 cast in a 4-candidate race. Each had just over 40 percent. Workers, Democrats and progressives were openly rooting for Kobach to win, figuring he’s too extreme even for the Sunflower State’s electorate. The winner faces Democratic state legislator Laura Kelly.

• The Michigan Democratic gubernatorial primary saw State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, backed by the party establishment as well as all but one union, win half the vote against two progressive opponents, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed (35 percent) and businesswoman Shri Thenadar (15). Whitmer’s backers included the state’s two most influential unions, the Auto Workers and the Teamsters.

El-Sayed got the only non-Whitmer union endorsement, from the Michigan Nurses Association/ National Nurses United. All three backed Fight for 15 and promised to roll back the anti-union measures of the last eight years of Republican rule in the Wolverine State. All promised to fix Flint’s water, where Republican cost-cutting led to a public health catastrophe – lead – in the drinking water.

El-Sayed also pushed Medicare For All – NNU’s top cause -- tuition-free public college education and other progressive issues backed by the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Whitmer faces Attorney General William Schuette, who tied himself to Trump and won half the GOP primary vote.

The nurses’ union had no immediate comment on the gubernatorial results. It hailed member Katie Scott, RN, who won the Democratic nomination for a Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor) Commission seat. “We need more people in office like Katie, fighting for people over profits,” the union tweeted. Scott beat her sole primary foe 7,831-4,877.

Meanwhile, at her victory rally, Whitmer reached out. Speaking directly to the supporters of Thanedar and El-Sayed, she said: "This is a big tent; join us. Come on inside."

• Trump’s campaigning wasn’t enough to give Republican congressional nominee Troy Balderson, a Trumpite, a clear victory in a special election for an open Ohio seat stretching from Columbus’s suburbs into surrounding rural areas. In a district Trump won by double digits two years ago, Balderson had 101,574 votes (50.2 percent) to 99,820 (49.3 percent) for Franklin County District Attorney Danny O’Connor, the Democratic nominee, and 0.6 percent for a Green Party candidate. But there are at least 3,400 provisional ballots yet to be counted. If their results pull the race within 0.5 percent, there’s an automatic recount.

Win or lose, the Ohio result recalls that in Pennsylvania’s southwestern-most congressional district earlier this year. Unabashedly pro-labor Democrat Conor Lamb eked out a win in a district Trump carried by 20 percentage points in 2016. Both districts were so gerrymandered by Republican legislatures that they were considered permanently out of Democrats’ – and progressives’ – reach. The Ohio seat last elected a Democrat 35 years ago.

Balderson and O’Connor will stage a rerun in the general election.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

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