Bryan Wucher (pronounced wooker) just took eight weeks off from his job at Dierbergs Supermarkets. His union contract allows him to do that if he is taking the time out in order to educate voters. And did he ever educate a lot of them. Wucher has been knocking on doors in St. Charles County, Wildwood, Pacific, and South St. Louis County, to name a few of the locations. He worked from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., usually six days a week. In all weathers. He was deprived of time with his wife, who teaches, and his two young sons. His wife had to take up a lot of slack at home, but she understood and did it cheerfully. Now that the legislative session is over and Missourians are more or less safe from Republicans for another seven months, he can go back to work at Dierbergs. It’s going to seem cushy after what he’s been doing.
He and other AFL-CIO workers started by talking to people about the Right-to-Work (for Less) bills that the Corpublicans were pushing. When it became obvious that that attack was going nowhere in this legislative session, the union workers began educating people about the Paycheck
Protection Deception bill.
Wucher laid out for me its two basic requirements. First, it would have levied a fee against every member of a public employee union. The unions would have had to pay, for each member, a sum that was a percentage of the employee’s dues or else $8, depending on which was less. AND, just so you know that this was not about raising revenues for the state but about punishing unions, note that the unions would have been forbidden to raise their dues by $8 per member to compensate for the loss. The point was to deplete political action funds for those unions. So the lege was talking about taxing teachers, policemen, firefighters and a host of people in other helpful professions, like nursing and social work, if they worked for public entities.
Let me say it again: this was not about getting funds for the state. It was about ideology. It was pure partisanship to try to grab money from unions even as Republicans shoveled state funds into the hands of businessmen. The Missouri Budget Project noted that Nixon has announced a state budget shortfall of $90 million for Fiscal Year 2012. That problem results in part from this giveaway:
The Office of Administration, Division of Budget & Planning estimates that phasing out the state’s corporate franchise tax, as approved by the Legislature this session, will reduce state revenue by $25 million in FY 2012 (increasing to a cost of $87 million annually when fully phased in).
Consider my cynical eyebrow raised.
But I digress. So consider my knuckles rapped. And let’s return to what Wucher told voters.
He said that the second problem with Paycheck Deception was that it required public employee union members, every year, to reauthorize the use of their dues for political purposes. What you do, if you’re a Republican legislator, is just keep chipping away at people’s rights: whether it has to do with unions, abortion, or voting. Set up barriers and institute bureaucratic red tape. Freedom my sweet patootie. They are not about freedom.
Paycheck Deception was Wisconsin again … only a little further south.
Wucher told me that as he talked to voters about Paycheck “Protection”, he offered, regardless of whether they agreed with him or not, to let them use his personal cellphone to call their state rep and comment on the bill.
All his work paid off. The bill failed.
In fact, all the Republican attacks on workers failed. Here are the most notable of them: Right-to-Work-for-Less failed. Paycheck “Protection” failed. Attempts to undo minimum wage protection failed. An attempt to expand charter schools and eliminate teacher tenure failed. Nixon vetoed a bill that would have reduced human rights in the workplace. The only dark spot occurred in the budget process because Republicans refused to replenish the workers’ compensation second injury fund.
Thanks to the Bryan Wuchers in the union movement, Missouri workers are safer than they would otherwise have been. And he can go back to Dierbergs–knowing that next spring, AFL-CIO workers will have to hit the pavement again.