Labor unions | St. Louis Public Radio

Labor unions

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A House committee has passed a measure that would change the date voters would decide on whether to make Missouri a right-to-work state.

House Committee Resolution 102 would move the right-to-work referendum from the November general election to the August primary, which traditionally draws fewer voters. It’s sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.

Erin Achenbach | St. Louis Public Radio

Several hundred union members rallied Wednesday in Jefferson City against the right-to-work law state lawmakers passed last year.

In November, voters will go to the polls to decide on Proposition A, and a “yes” vote would uphold Senate Bill 19, a controversial bill signed by Gov. Eric Greitens last year that would enact a right-to-work law. The law, which effectively was suspended until voters decide its fate, mandates that no person can be required to join a labor union or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment.

Gerrie Gibson, left, has worked for Christian Care Home for 19 years.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Workers for a Ferguson nursing home are three weeks into a strike over claims of unfair labor practices. Now, they’re receiving letters from the administrator of the Christian Care Home, telling them they’re being replaced.

In a Dec. 19 letter, administrator Donna Cooper told workers they would have preferential hiring status when there are vacancies if they choose to return. That shocked union nurse Ruby  Crymes, who sits on the bargaining committee. 

“We feel like they’re playing games with our lives,” Crymes said. “We even offered to go back with no raise now, with something on the back end six months later and they didn’t even accept that.”

Union members gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall on Aug. 8, 2017, to notarize and turn in petitions to force a statewide vote over Missouri’s right-to-work law.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri labor unions were successful in getting enough signatures to all but guarantee the state’s new right-to-work law won’t go into effect a week from now as Gov. Eric Greitens had planned.

But the real battle is just getting started. Come November 2018, voters around the state will determine whether to kill or keep the law, which bars unions and employers from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues. Ten percent of Missouri workers are in a union.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri appeals court helped labor groups Tuesday, giving them a backup plan in their attempt to block the new right-to-work law that’ll take effect Aug. 28.

The court ruled that the state must restore the original ballot language for initiative petitions that seek a constitutional amendment to make sure Missouri can’t have any right-to-work laws. Such laws bar unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues or fees.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:15 a.m. June 26 with comment from Ashcroft — Missouri’s top labor group says the union effort to go to the ballot box next year to block “right to work’’ remains on course, despite a judge’s ruling Thursday that changes the ballot language.

The state AFL-CIO already has collected “tens of thousands of signatures,’’ said spokeswoman Laura Swinford. But those signatures were on petitions that contained the original summary ballot language that had been approved by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signs a bill on Tues., May 30, 2017, banning project labor agreements before workers at Automation Systems, a firm in Earth City.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens appears to be reinforcing his anti-union image, inviting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — who also has built a reputation for taking on unions — to a rally Tuesday, where Greitens signed a bill outlawing a longstanding practice.

The bill bans cities and counties from using project labor agreements, which have been in use in the St. Louis area for decades. PLAs require all subcontractors to pay union wages, and often bar work stoppages over labor disagreements. Already, there are PLA bans on state projects.

Missouri unions assess losses, victories on May Day

Apr 30, 2017
Members of labor unions watch speakers at a rally last year in St. Charles.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

International Workers’ Day, often marked by protests, marches and celebrations by organized labor, may be muted in Missouri this year due to restrictions passed by the state legislature.

“We’ve definitely taken a few hits this year, there’s no doubt,” said Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council AFL-CIO.

People mill in the hallway leading to the Missouri Senate chamber.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri legislators began churning through bills Thursday, including one now headed to Gov. Eric Greitens that bans forcing public works projects to use union workers.

Not everything is a done deal, as bills that would establish education savings accounts for certain students and allow a vote on increasing the St. Louis Zoo sales tax still need to be heard by the House.

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday was a busy day for the Missouri House, which passed four bills, including another piece of the GOP’s labor-union reform agenda.

The House also sent along to the Senate two law enforcement-related bills and a measure that would deregulate the cosmetology industry.

Republicans in the Missouri House are moving on to other labor union regulations a week after the right-to-work legislation passed.

Under the measure that was approved 95-60 on Thursday and sent to the Senate, state employees would have to agree to have their union dues withheld from paychecks. The bill also would prevent those dues from being spent on political endorsements and other things without an employee’s consent.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Jan. 26 with Senate approval of right-to-work bill - The Missouri Senate has approved a bill to make Missouri a "right-to-work state,'' but a fight could still loom with the House over what union contracts would be affected.

Charles and Doris Lehman, of Sparta, Illinois,  at the Pour House bar in Marissa, Illinois. (Nov. 1, 2916)
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of former coal workers and dependents who worked for now-bankrupt coal companies could lose their health insurance at the end of the year if Congress does not pass legislation to fund it.

Retirees in southern Illinois say losing their health insurance would amount to a broken promise from the coal companies that would have devastating effects to their well-being. Without Congressional action, Republican president-elect Donald Trump’s promise to repeal of the Affordable Care Act makes the retirees’ coverage alternatives uncertain.

Millennium Student Center at UMSL
File: Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 31 at 3:05 p.m. with background — Nearly one year after former President Tim Wolfe stepped down amid racial unrest in Columbia, the University of Missouri system plans to introduce his successor on Wednesday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the new president will be Mun Y. Choi, the provost at the University of Connecticut.

Unlike the university’s last two presidents, Wolfe and Gary Forsee, Choi comes to the University of Missouri from an academic background.

He joined the mechanical engineering department at Connecticut in 2008, after serving on the faculty at the University of Illinois from 1994 to 2000 and at Drexel University starting in 2000. He received his B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1987 and M.A. and Ph.D. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University.

AFL-CIP Vice President Tefere Gebre speaks before a canvas against Missouri's photo voter ID amendment on Oct. 15, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

The national labor organization AFL-CIO is trying to take a more active role in issues affecting people of color, and has its eye on Missouri in particular this election.

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre is in St. Louis this weekend for the fifth time in a year to talk about race, politics and the photo voter ID amendment on Missouri’s November ballot.

Jake Rosenfeld is a sociology professor at Washington University who studies labor movements in the U.S.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In the mid-1950s, one out of every three people working in private enterprise in the United States was in a union. Today, only 6-7 percent of private sector workers still pay their dues. What changed over that period of time?

Rescue crews from the Monarch Fire Protection District work at the scene of a motor vehicle accident on May 3, 2016.
Monarch Fire Protection District | Facebook

Updated July 26, 2016 with appeals court ruling. — A Missouri appeals court says firefighters in the Monarch Fire Protection District can continue working under their old contract while negotiating a new one.

Tuesday's ruling upholds an "evergreen" clause that says the current contract, negotiated in 2013, remains in effect as long as good faith negotiations are going on between the board and the union. The district provides fire and ambulance service for parts of west St. Louis County.

Marchelle Vernell-Bettis, a trauma ICU nurse, wears a button during an informational picket for St. Louis University Hospital's nurses union.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of nurses gathered for a picket Monday morning to protest what they say are unsafe staffing levels at St. Louis University Hospital.

In advance of contract negotiations, the hospital’s chapter of National Nurses United conducted a staffing survey in 2015 and compared the data collected to staffing guidelines set by the hospital’s management. Overall, optimal staffing levels were not met on 58 percent of shifts in a 21-day period.

Wikipedia

Regardless of whether Missouri becomes a battleground in the presidential contest, national labor leaders see the state as one of their top priorities this fall.

“Missouri has the most important governor’s race in the country going on right now,” said Richard Trumka, national president of the AFL-CIO, during an exclusive interview while he was in St. Louis over the weekend.

Washington University, Webster University, St. Charles Community College
St. Charles Community College, Flicker | Phil Roeder and Parick Giblin

Adjunct instructors at St. Charles Community College have joined the growing campus unionization movement.

By a vote of 108-61, the part-time instructors approved a proposal Thursday to join Service Employees International Union Local 1. The union also represents adjuncts at Washington University and St. Louis Community College.

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