ST. LOUIS - "We need to focus on creating jobs and restoring the middle class. We have to stop efforts to weaken or eliminate workers' rights," Pastor Mary Albert told union leaders and community activists as they held a We Are One rally outside the offices of Republican Reps. Gary Fuhr and Marsha Haefner here June 13.
Fuhr and Haefner represent constituents in south-county St. Louis, areas that have high union density. However, Albert said, both representatives "chose CEOs over middle class workers."
"I am here today as a faith leader in support of the hundreds of thousands of Missourians who want to work hard and support their families," Albert said. "People deserve to be treated with respect and given fair wages for their labor."
"Unfortunately though," she said, "in this past legislative session Representatives Fuhr and Haefner supported Wisconsin-style attacks on working families."
The Missouri House and Senate are both dominated by right-wing Republicans. Their top priorities in the last session were deceptively labeled "right-to-work' and "paycheck protection" bills, which are really anti-union measures, efforts to eliminate the minimum wage cost-of-living adjustment, weakening the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act and attacks on women's right of choice and LGBT rights.
These issues did not create a single job or help our economy in any way," Albert said. "Our legislative body should focus on re-building the job market and encouraging job growth, not weakening our workforce."
The Republicans' "'paycheck deception,' 'right-to-work' for less and efforts to cut the minimum wage attack people like me that are just trying to provide for our families," said Beth Dysart, a retail worker and member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655.
"While I'm relieved that these bills didn't pass last session, we need to make sure our representatives don't forget us next year," she continued.
Republican attacks on workers' rights and handouts to big corporations were the focus of the We Are One rally, called by the Missouri AFL-CIO, Missouri Jobs with Justice and the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition. The rally was part of a nationwide day of action, with similar events taking place across the country.
According to Albert, "68 percent of Missouri corporations paid absolutely no state income taxes in 2010. However, 100 percent of working Missourians paid income taxes."
"It is time to take a look at Missouri's corporate giveaway system and assess our priorities," she said.
Despite a huge state budget deficit, thousands of state employees laid off and severe cuts to social service programs like unemployment benefits, the Missouri legislature - with the help of Reps. Fuhr and Haefner - voted to repeal the Corporate Franchise Tax, costing Missouri about $85 million in needed revenue annually.
Concluding the rally, Albert said, "It is time for our leaders to come together and focus on improving our economy. It is time to create quality jobs for working-class families."
Pastor Mary Albert. Tony Pecinovsky/PW