Missouri Unions, students confront Bush

ST. LOUIS – Seven hundred union members, community leaders and student activists rallied outside of the America’s Center, Jan. 5, against President Bush’s overtime proposals as the president raised $2.8 million from wealthy Republican contributors – the single largest one-night fundraising total in Missouri history.

According to the local news, the president spoke for 17 minutes and mingled with contributors for 10 minutes, raising around $76,000 per minute from over 1,000 Bush supporters.

Mike Dalton, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2000, told the World, “President Bush is trying to steal overtime from our members. He is taking money from working families and giving it to his rich buddies. He is spending billions of dollars in Iraq when our state budgets are in crisis.”

Dalton, who represents state mental health professionals, has seen first-hand the effects of Bush’s handling of the economy. “Many of our state employees have only received one raise in the past four years, but caseloads continue to increase,” he said. “Because of increased caseloads, many mental health professionals are unable to provide the type of patient care that they would like to.”

St. Louis area Jobs with Justice organizer Lara Granich told the World, “Overtime isn’t just a labor issue. It is a community issue. It is an issue that concerns all of us. Overtime pay keeps many working families from having to choose between paying rent or buying groceries.” While the main focus of the protest was administration attacks on overtime pay, many protesters were also concerned about Bush’s chances of winning Missouri in the 2004 elections.

John Hickey, of Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, told the World, “Tonight’s turnout shows that Missourians are beginning to understand Bush’s policies are not for working families. Pro-Vote and all of our coalition partners are going to focus on building for November.”

Missouri Pro-Vote has registered 18,000 new voters and plans to register an additional 40,000 before the elections. Hickey added, “Missouri is a critical state. Bush won Missouri during the 2000 elections. It will be very difficult for any Democratic candidate to carry the nation without winning Missouri in 2004.”

Nationally, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME and dozens of other unions are devoting resources and personnel to voter registration projects in Missouri.

Some protesters carried signs denouncing Bush’s war on Iraq and called for immediate U.S. military withdrawal.

The author can be reached at tonypec@pww.org.