Yesterday afternoon supporters of organized labor in Missouri gathered in Jefferson for a small rally in the Capitol rotunda. Judy Baker (D) was one of the featured speakers:
Judy Baker (D): ….So, it’s a great day to rally. Why is it a great day to rally? And you are a rally whether you think so or not. Because, just yesterday you saw what could happen when people rise up, stand up for themselves and their neighbors, and this country. While there have been some grim days of late for our Democracy and so much has seemed lost, we must cling to conviction that our Democracy was built for moments like these for us to stand up…
But times like these require the best of us. It requires that we get up, stand up, rise up, and speak up. And that’s what we are doing today. When we come together as in past days of the labor movement we join hands, we lock arms, we march again and again. And as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, all progress is precarious. All progress is precarious. That phrase has come to live with us this past decade and culminated in the most under represented political system of our lifetime. Do you feel unrepresented? I feel unrepresented. A lot of people, the majority of this country, feels unrepresented.
Well, we’ve come here today, ever so small, but ever so mighty, to tell the powerful that we are awake. We are awake. Because of fear we have seen the rise of those who want to take us backwards. But we are awake. They want to restore some ideal they have in their mind when power was concentrated and they little guy served the master. But we are awake. They want to harken back to a day that never really existed. But we are awake.
…The tragedy [Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire] brought widespread attention to the dangers of sweatshop conditions in factories and led to the development of a series of laws, and yes, regulations, those terrible God awful things, that save people. The danger of fire in factories like the Triangle Shirtwaist was well known, but high levels of corruption in both the garment industry and city government generally insured that no useful precautions were taken to prevent fires. For a hundred and six years since the labor movement has worked hard to change that using the influence of joining together, leveraging bargaining power, and the power of marching, striking, and speaking up.
We stand here today to do the same, because the times call for it. The defeat of the [Republican] health care bill yesterday proves that we can make a difference. The people of the United States see that the doors are locked and being locked every day, they see that the ladders don’t reach to them, they see that the safety nets are broken. So they stood up, they marched, and they spoke up against the seriously flawed health care bill, a so-called fix, because we are awake.
The assault on worker’s rights is a national movement. It will take a national movement to take it back. While the GOP has had its way on right to work for less in Missouri this is not over. The people have yet to speak up and speak on it. And they will on a referendum. Missouri, prior to the passing of right to work, recently was considered a battleground state on the issue. We’re here today to show it is still a battleground state on the issue. We are here today to show it is still available to the voters to make up their minds.
The average worker in right to work states makes twelve point two percent less than other states. Missouri can’t afford that, frankly. The average worker is less likely to have health insurance. Right to work states have higher poverty, more infant mortality, weaker education systems, and higher workplace fatalities. The decline of unions in this country is directly correlated to the rise in income inequality and poverty. The transfer of wealth has been to the wealthy. Insuring worker’s rights insures all boats can rise together.
We need a Supreme Court that protects worker’s rights. We need to make sure that any changes to health care are not actually just tax breaks for the wealthy, while twenty-four million people get left behind. President Trump himself yesterday lost a two point five million dollar tax break to himself. You can clap. [applause]
We can’t expect the politically connected to give back power now. It will take the coordinated efforts of the many to take back this power. I am here today to do two things. Help rally hard working Missourians to action for the next election, to bring about change, elect people like Michela Skelton [in the 50th Legislative District], and build the wave we need to bring Missouri back to its roots of Democratic and working family values.
The best thing that we can do to rally is remember that rally is a verb. It means to gather, organize, and inspire anew. So, what will rally us? I think it is to refresh, and to commit to what it is we know to be true about our values and spend less talking about what we are against. And stand firm for what we are for. We will make change by empowering people to fight for and build our future.
One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes is, human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle, the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
You’ve proven today you are. This is us. This is who we are. We’re the ones who by our actions and voices can make a difference. And we must be on the lookout for anyone who’ll put party before people.
When you woke up today you realized you were powerful. You were worthy of standing up. And others were worthy to stand up for. When you woke up today you realized this movement can happen without you, but will be better with you. When you woke up today you remembered what you were passionate about. We are awake. And being so, think of all we can do. There is much to be done and the times demand it. Let’s do this together.
If you can’t go door to door, then write a note. If you can’t write a note, then make a call. If you can’t make a call, then send a contribution. If you can, do all of these things. Just stay awake.
Let’s unlock the doors, extend the ladders, and strengthen the safety nets. We can do this together.
Thank you for being here. Let’s get to work. [applause]