Unions are important to Missouri despite smear attempt

John Stiffler, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council, took to the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to counter the erroneous accusations and outright falsehoods surrounding the issue of right-to-work in Missouri.


Unions are important to Missouri despite smear attempt

By John J. Stiffler

Paul Munsch’s opinion piece “Right to work helps when ‘no thank you’ won’t” (June 27) is a classic piece of distorted rhetoric by an individual who has become the informal spokesman for the anti-labor efforts now underway in Missouri. Consider that he has been spouting the same story over the past 12 years, almost verbatim, every time an anti-union group needs what appears to be a regular person to smear the labor movement.

His attack on the unions, particularly the building trades, is completely distorted in an attempt to discredit labor unions in general while we are in the midst of collecting signatures on a citizens petition to allow a public vote and let the voters’ voices be heard on whether Missouri should be a “right-to-work” state.

The attack is totally unwarranted. First and foremost, the instance he references took place in 2005, more than 12 years ago. But more on that in a moment.

The simple truth is our labor unions are a major plus to our communities and provide a benefit to both union and nonunion members alike. Some examples:

  • On construction jobs where the prevailing wage is appropriate, both union and nonunion workers get the same pay. That’s money flowing back into the community.
  • Our unions are constantly recruiting minority and women for the building trades. For example: Our council’s Building Union Diversity program has placed young African-Americans and women into our apprenticeship training programs where they will learn a lifelong skill. The Painters District Council has a unique hands-on training program for similar groups jointly sponsored with the Workers Education Society.
  • In giving back to the community, by actual survey over the past three years alone, our unions in the St. Louis area have donated more than $5.7 million in free services — volunteers, building projects, technical advice, etc. — and actual dollars to 759 churches, nonprofits, charities, school districts, etc. And that’s from only 35 unions reporting of about 200 in our community.
  • We put our union pension funds to work funding affordable housing projects in our community: more than $1 billion has been provided for housing for thousands of families. The ripple effect of the wages paid to those workers produced another $1.4 billion spent at restaurants, cleaners, movie theaters, retailers and grocers across the community.

Keep in mind union members are our neighbors, friends and family. Trying to disparage unions and their members over a single distorted issue, as Munsch has done, is like saying all teens are bad because your neighbor’s kid got in trouble.

Finally, a few facts about Munsch’s specific exaggerated complaint:

  • It happened 12 years ago, although in reading his comments, you would think it took place recently.
  • A cursory search shows he’s been hauled out to tell the exact same story in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was featured, with this same story, in an anti-President Obama commercial “Obama isn’t working” in January 2013 for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He’s a convenient example used by many anti-union groups when they need a public face for their lies and distortions.
  • In picketing his company 12 years ago, the unions involved were exercising their free speech rights to inform the public that there were better, more skilled companies with trained workers, to do the same work. Free speech is guaranteed under the Constitution to everyone, including our unions.
  • One of the unions involved tried to talk with him for two years, and he refused. So they took their issue to the public. It seems every politician does the same thing today. Even our governor and president recently ran negative radio ads against members of their own party who didn’t listen to them.
  • His assertion that a United Auto Workers national officer supports the anti-worker “right-to-work” law is absurd. The UAW informs us they have refuted the alleged quote time and time again since it was first reported by an undocumented source in 2014. The entire UAW is firmly against the phony, anti-worker “right-to-work.”

The public needs to understand that Munsch is a mouthpiece for the out-of-state dark money groups wanting to shackle Missouri’s workers. His views need to be recognized for what they are: phony.

John J. Stiffler is executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council.