ST. LOUIS – This year’s Labor Day parade took on added significance in this Mississippi River city that serves as the nation’s gateway to the West after Missouri voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot measure last month to enact so-called right to work (RTW) in the state. And the hundreds of Teamsters on hand yesterday were relishing every moment.
One couldn’t walk more than a few steps in the sweltering Midwest heat without encountering a participant holding a defeat Proposition A sign, or wearing a shirt, or brandishing a button. As members lined up to march and remember the contributions of generations of workers who fought for and won better pay, benefits and working conditions for today’s workers, they admitted this year’s celebration was a little more joyous than most.
“It does feel different,” said Rodney Kalina, a Local 688 member and 25-year Teamster who is a driver and shop steward for Pepsi Beverages. “In years past, different parts of labor weren’t unified. This year, it just feels like we’re more unified. If it took this fight to get there, I hope it stays in that direction.”
Hardworking Missourians stood up to corporate cronies on Aug. 7, overwhelmingly rejecting their efforts to enact a RTW law in the state that would have curbed the ability of workers to join together to negotiate for higher pay, benefits and safety on the job.
By a more than two-to-one margin, voters overruled the state Legislature and former governor that enacted RTW in 2017 after years of failed attempts to do so. The Teamsters and other unions came together in the weeks following the legislation’s passage to get voters to place a measure on the state ballot that would overturn the law.
Larry Tinker, Secretary-Treasurer of Joint Council 13, said the thousands gathered at the St. Louis parade could march with pride knowing that their years of hard work to first stave off passage of RTW in Missouri and then defeat it at the ballot box had made a real impact with state residents.
“We know that not only the union people support this, but the other citizens around support this,” he said. “It just makes you feel good, so you get out there and you keep fighting.”
It also sets a blueprint for how the Teamsters and the labor movement should come together and flex their muscle in advance of the November election, said Marvin Kropp, President of Joint Council 13.
“It showed we could defeat some of the people who are not friends of labor,” he said. “But we have to do it the same way we defeated Prop A. We have to get unified, we have to get together. And we have to get the boots on the ground.”