From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch…
The Cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis has announced its opposition to “Right to Work/Freedom to Work” efforts under consideration in the Missouri Legislature. The clergy and lay members of the ecumenical organization see this as a social justice issue. They’re entirely correct.
Multiple bills have been introduced that would prohibit the payment of union dues as a condition of employment. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has vowed to veto any of those bills, so a separate effort is underway to place the question before voters in November. Neither effort appears to have much momentum, but things can change quickly before the legislative session ends in May.The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013, only 8.6 percent of Missouri’s workforce was unionized, well below the national rate of 11.3 percent. At its peak in 1989, the first year for which data were available, Missouri’s union membership rate was 15.5 percent.
Still, even 8.6 percent is too much for Republicans in the Legislature. Union members tend to make higher wages and earn better benefits, which apparently the GOP and its donors see as a bad thing. What really bugs them is that part of union dues go for political action in directions that tend not to favor those who oppose unions.
Not so the leadership of the Interfaith Partners. In a statement signed by Archbishop Robert Carlson, the cabinet chair, and the Rev. C. Jessel Strong of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the vice chair, the group said:
“Striking for economic justice is an integral element of our faith traditions. The right of freely founding unions for working people and the right of those working people to bargain collectively are essential for economic justice. So-called ‘Right to Work/Freedom to Work’ laws proposed under the guise of freedom to the individual worker actually weaken their ability to equally bargain for fair compensation in the workplace, and are obviously and admittedly anti-union in their intent and render impossible or at least weaken the process of collective bargaining between management and labor.”
If Pope Francis and President Barack Obama can agree, as they did last week, to work together on issues of social justice, the people of Missouri should be able to do the same.
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