Steve Stenger Welcomes the AFL-CIO International Convention
Thank you all very much. I would like to extend a warm welcome to the St. Louis area to all of you, especially those who have traveled a long distance to be here today. It is truly great to have all of you with us.
When you are not engaged in the important mission of the convention, I encourage you to explore our diverse and dynamic region. The St. Louis area is home to many cultural and entertainment institutions, including outstanding museums, parks, sports venues, concert clubs and some of the finest restaurants in the nation. And I know that you will appreciate the hospitality for which our residents are renowned.
The St. Louis region is also known for its deep organized labor roots. In 1885, fledgling unions here led the nation in the fight for an eight-hour workday. They were opposed by strikebreakers, violent gangs hired by companies to intimidate and club union members into submission. They also struggled at the time against their own government, which had drafted anti-union laws and backed them up with the power of state and national militias.
How times have changed, right?
Or have they?
This year, the new Republican governor signed legislation making Missouri the 28th right-to-work state. As you well know, right-to-work laws are designed to weaken unions, drive down wages and turn back the clock on working conditions. Indeed, this bill was the worst blow against organized labor in the history of Missouri. But like their labor forefathers, Missouri’s union members and supporters fought back. They collected more than 310,000 signatures – triple the required amount – to place a referendum on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot that will give Missouri’s voters a right to overturn the right-to-work law.
This is democracy in action! This is labor unity!
But there is no time to rest. Even now, a movement is afoot in Missouri’s capitol, Jefferson City, to abolish the state’s prevailing wage law on government sponsored construction projects. The consequence of this legislation would slash union salaries on such jobs to the minimum wage of $7.70 an hour. I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to fight to reverse right-to-work and stymy efforts to kill the prevailing wage law. The fact of the matter is strong unions and good paying jobs go hand-in-hand with a prosperous community, county, region, and state.
St. Louis County, which I represent, is a perfect example. Right now, the County is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom. Since last year, major corporations have invested $4 billion in capital improvements and expansions in the County. These investments generated over 5,700 new jobs and retained about 21,000 more. Union labor has been the key to this expansion. I would also note that our region’s construction boom has attracted national attention. Companies that want work done right the first time are drawn here because we have one of the best-trained workforces in the nation.
I want to extend my appreciation for the strong support that organized labor has given me. And I want you to know that you will always have my support, as well.
Again, thank you all very much. And I hope that you have a productive and memorable convention.