Every Time Anti-Union Bills Come Up in Missouri, More Republicans Vote Against Them

Last night, the Missouri House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it harder for union workers to make their voices heard in the political process. Known as “paycheck deception,” House Bill 1617 places unnecessary restrictions on how union workers’ paycheck deductions can be used. Like many other anti-worker bills introduced around the country, House Bill 1617 is based on an ALEC model bill.

Does this story seem familiar? It should. The Republican-controlled Missouri House passed an almost identical bill almost exactly one year ago.

Again, the bill was introduced (SB 29 last time, HB 1617 this time). Again, there was enormous outcry from labor unions, community members, and the faith community. Again, debate on the floor revealed that the bill’s sponsors were unfamiliar with current paycheck deduction laws, which render “paycheck deception” laws redundant. Again, they didn’t care, because ALEC wrote the bill anyway, and because hurting labor unions is in their political interest. Again, it passed.

If ALEC did a remake of the movie Groundhog Day, it would look a lot like this.

But in this version, there were two major changes.

First, this version refers the issue to the 2014 ballot. This is because last year’s attempt at paycheck deception was vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, and despite controlling twin supermajorities in the legislature, the bill’s proponents were unable to get enough Republican votes to override.

Second, this year the bill lost even more Republican votes, a tight 83-70.

This mimics a trend in the Missouri Senate. While SB 29 passed the Senate on a near party-line vote last spring, two conservative Republicans opposed it when it came back around for an override attempt in the fall: Senator Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) voted no, while Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington) “took a walk” and was absent (a tactic often used to express passive opposition).

So why is this happening? It seems that for a number of Republican lawmakers, and for even more of their constituents, the ALEC-backed anti-worker agenda is getting tired. As the economy continues to struggle, the continued pushing of narrow, corporate-backed policies at the expense of job-creation policies–like Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage–is making less and less sense.

“A lot of Republicans don’t want anything to do with these bills, because they’re afraid the issue will come back to bite them in the end,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, “They’re right.”

“There’s more and more of us on the Republican side who realize that labor is not the enemy,” said Republican Representative Anne Zerr. Rep. Zerr has opposed both paycheck deception and “right to work” in her caucus, and spoke at a rally opposing “right to work” last week. A former utility worker, Rep. Zerr stressed that she is doing her best to turn her caucus in a different direction. “We are educating our own,” she told the crowd.

But for now, HB 1617 moves next to the Missouri Senate. If the trend continues, that might be where it stops.

Learn more about “paycheck deception” bills.

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Pennsylvania Republicans Push to ‘Protect’ Paychecks…from Higher Salaries and Benefits

Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing falsely titled “paycheck protection” legislation that would take away rights from workers and keep them from having good wages and benefits. The legislation would hamper workers’ ability to organize unions and represent themselves in negotiations with employers, leaving them open to any number of assaults on salary, benefits and working conditions. The legislation would prevent the deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks and is supported by groups related to the infamous Koch brothers, wealthy extremists who are behind many attacks against working families across the nation.

But Pennsylvania’s workers are ready to fight back. More than 2,000appeared at a frozen rally Tuesday in opposition to the legislation. Many of those in attendance weren’t members of the unions potentially affected by this legislation. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO reports:

One of the rallies erupted outside the front doors of the Capitol, where more than a thousand workers were literally frozen out of the event in the nearly sub-zero temperatures because Capitol police claimed the crowd had exceeded capacity limitations in the Rotunda. PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder was handed a bull horn by Capitol Police and the nearly frost-bitten crowd had their own impromptu rally on the Capitol steps as Snyder explained the implications of the Koch brother’s-inspired anti-labor legislation.

Supporters of the bill say taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for such payroll deductions. As usual with anything associated with the Koch brothers, this reasoning is dishonest, because taxpayers don’t actually pay the minimal costs associated with making such deductions, those costs are included in contracts negotiated between workers and their employers. In fact, paycheck deductions are very standard from people who choose to make United Way contributions, retirement contributions, etc.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder told the crowd the real reason behind the legislation:

The supporters of this attack claim this is all about restoring ethics to government. If this were all about restoring ethics then perhaps they would stop trying to prevent the uninsured from gaining access to affordable health care. If this were about ethics they would support raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits to unemployed workers who are still looking for a job. No this isn’t about ethics, this is all about distractions, more smoke and mirrors and playing political games instead of solving our problems: creating jobs, expanding the middle class and putting Pennsylvania back to work. We won’t be fooled.

While the legislation currently being considered only targets public employee unions, there is little doubt that success on this legislation would lead to further attacks on the rights of working families. The Pennsylvania federation said:

Don’t be silent on this issue. We expect this bill to move very quickly, with significant resources flooding into Pennsylvania to back this latest attack on the middle class.

Residents of the Keystone State who support working families and oppose this legislation should take actionand email Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and their state legislators.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How The “Right to Work” Movement Fell Flat On Its Face in 2013

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A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.

Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.

And then, nothing.

Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.

Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.

“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.

In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.

In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.

But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.

“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.

Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.

In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.

The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.

At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.

Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.

What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.

Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.

In Oregon, the story is even shorter.  An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.

What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.

Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.

Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram

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Missouri Extremists Get an Early Start on Attacking Working Families for 2014 Legislative Session


Extremist pro-corporate Republicans in Missouri are getting an early start on attacking the rights of working families by pre-filing a “right to work” for less bill for the 2014 legislative session. While there undoubtedly will be similar attacks in other states in 2014, Missouri is the first state to take formal steps to strip working families of their rights.

This isn’t the first time that “right to work” legislation very similar to model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been proposed in the state—similar legislation was proposed earlier this year and in 2011. Peter Kinder, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, spoke in favor of the legislation at an ALEC conference in August.

The We Are Missouri coalition is leading the opposition to the legislation. Through a press release, several members of the coalition explained why the legislation was wrong for Missouri.

Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO:

Missouri’s elected leaders should work together to create jobs here in our state. While it isn’t a surprise that extremist politicians would instead file a ‘right to work’ bill on the first day of session, it is shameful that they would make this unnecessary and confusing bill their first priority for 2014. It is time for our elected officials to work together to create good jobs and safe work places instead of trying to micromanage relationships between businesses and their employees.

Bobby Dicken, a utility line crew foreman from Poplar Bluff:

It is simple—“right to work” bills are wrong for Missouri. It’s a corporate power grab that’s in the best interests of CEOs—not our state. Studies have shown that ‘right to work’ means less jobs, lower wages and more dangerous workplaces. I’m disappointed that [Southeast Missouri] area state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger and Speaker Tim Jones seem to be more concerned with doing the bidding of special interest groups like ALEC instead of helping middle-class Missouri families.

Vicki Hurt, who works for the Missouri Children’s Division in Branson:

This bill won’t create a single job. These unnecessary attacks on working people hurt our middle-class families, harm our public schools and put our safety at risk. ‘Right to work’ is a divisive partisan political issue meant to punish labor unions that puts our everyday heroes in danger.

Tell Missouri legislators: we need more jobs, not fewer rights.

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Missouri Senators of Both Parties Reject ALEC-Backed “Paycheck Deception” Bill


On Wednesday, the Missouri Senate considered overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 29, the paycheck deception bill, which would put unnecessary restrictions on union members’ voice in the political process. After 35 minutes of debate, the motion to override failed 22-11, with Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) joining a unanimous Democratic caucus. Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington) was absent from the vote.

This is the end of a long journey for the paycheck deception bill in Missouri. In March, Democrats in the Senate lead a 7-hour filibuster of the bill before Republicans cut off debate to pass it. Different versions of the bill with various exemptions bounced around between the state House and Senate.

The debate over the bill was strange. Democratic senators including Gina Walsh (D-Bellafontaine) and Paul LeVota (D-Independence) addressed question after question to supporters of the bill, including the primary sponsor Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla), which never got answered. The supporters of SB 29 seemed unaware and uninterested in the fact that union members can already opt out of political contributions. Progress Missouri extensively reported SB 29’s similarity to an ALEC model bill, and the wide overlap between ALEC members and SB 29 supporters.

Eventually, the bill passed both houses, but with far below the support needed to override a veto. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, calling it “unnecessary,” a simple argument that the bill’s supporters never directly refuted. Their failure to give any reason for the bill, other than political retribution and marching orders from ALEC, was reflected in today’s vote.

“With his veto, Governor Nixon stood up for the basic rights of Missouri’s everyday heroes – and bipartisan opposition to this unfair bill in the House and Senate means SB 29 will not become law,” said Hugh McVey, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “Although wealthy corporate special interest groups pushed for this paycheck deception bill that would take away the voice of teachers, nurses, social workers and other middle class Missourians, with bipartisan opposition the veto override fell short.”

We hope the failure of SB 29, along with the failure to advance a so-called “right to work” bill, will be a wake up call to Missouri politicians that Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike want more jobs, not fewer rights for workers.

“Politicians in Jefferson City need to start working on job creation instead of making it more difficult for me to do my job,” said John White,  a developmental assistant from Sikeston. “As a union member, I voluntarily contribute to giving a voice to all workers, and I don’t need extremist legislators to get in the way of my freedom to make that decision. Plain and simple, these extremist proposals would do nothing but impede my rights as a worker.”

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8 Ways That ALEC Is Targeting Working Families

Information about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) working in secret to push state-level policy to more extreme levels is coming to lightmore and more and America’s working families are starting to stand up to the group’s corporate-driven agenda. While ALEC’s agenda is all over the policy map, the organization has a particular focus on pushing new laws that attack working families and undercut the rights of workers, both in the workplace and in retirement.  Here are eight of the most dangerous and most widespread ways that ALEC is targeting workers and their right to a voice on the job.

8. Voter ID Act: Laws directly based on or similar to ALEC’s Voter ID Act have been introduced in recent years in nearly every state, with more than a dozen states passing or strengthening such laws in the past three years. These laws disproportionately affect working families, senior citizens, people of color and residents of rural areas and help elect legislators who vote against the rights and needs of workers.

7. Paycheck Protection Bills: ALEC has at least four different versions of this legislation, each one more extreme than the last, that were introduced 20 times in various states in 2013. These bills range from requiring that each employee sign an annual form authorizing that their union dues be allowed to be used for political purposes to preventing payroll deductions from being used for union dues. These bills provide no additional rights to workers and do nothing more than weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain by depriving unions of the funds they need to fight on behalf of their members.

6. Direct Union Assaults: Through model legislation such as the Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act and the Decertification Elections Act, introduced in Idaho and Arizona, respectively, ALEC is seeking to make public employees vote over and over again to retain their union status, giving ALEC and other groups the opportunity to flood workers with anti-union propaganda.

5. Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option Act: Through this and similar bills, 10 states have attempted to weaken or eliminate defined-benefit pension plans and replace them with defined-contribution plans, which make retirees depend on the market for how much money they have for retirement and health care.

4. Council on Efficient Government Act: As Orwellian a name as any in the ALEC arsenal, this legislation does nothing but use government money to create a commission to figure out ways to privatize government services. In other words, yet another example of ALEC attempting to get taxpayer money into the hands of private corporations without any accountability or taxpayer recourse.

3. “Right to Work” Act: This incredibly misleadingly titled legislation gives no one any new rights and does nothing but prevent employees from paying for the benefits that unions earn on their behalf. So-called “right to work” for less states end up paying their workers a lot less than states that don’t have such laws. In 2013, 15 states introduced this legislation.

2. Parent Trigger Act: These laws give parents the option, once a majority of parents sign a petition, to change a public school into a charter school, give students vouchers or close the school. Seven states have passed parent trigger laws similar to the ALEC bill. Parent Trigger laws force parents to make a bad choice—either stick with a poorly performing school, or take drastic actions that are likely to make things worse, do little to help students and are a boon for corporate groups that run private schools. Meanwhile one of the best tools for helping working families reach the middle class—public education—gets less and less funding.

1. Wage Protections: In 14 states, ALEC model legislation attacking wage protections were introduced. The bills sought to weaken or eliminate laws that require prevailing wages, living wages or minimum wages. Big corporations heavily support these efforts, which would only serve to lower wages for workers.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, working families and other opponents of the ALEC agenda will be rallying at the conservative group’s convention in Chicago. Those who are in the area can RSVP online.

Photo by @phillipcantor on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Vetoes Paycheck Deception Bill, And There Was Much Rejoicing

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon just issued a veto to Senate Bill 29, a bill placing additional burdens on union members who want to make their voices heard in our political system.

Senate Bill 29, also known as the “paycheck deception” bill, would have made it more difficult for union members to deduct dues from their paychecks, and for those dues to be used toward advocacy. The requirements contained in this bill are not expected from corporations, CEO’s, or any other entity that wants to make a political contribution.

SB 29 is also an ALEC copycat bill, with similar versions passed in Washington, Alabama, Arizona, and elsewhere. These laws are promoted with the sole intent of weakening unions and silencing the voices of workers.

“With today’s veto, Governor Nixon stood up for the basic rights of Missouri’s everyday heroes – the people who work every day to keep our state working. Nurses, teachers, police officers and countless other middle class Missourians would have lost their voice on the job if this unfair and dangerous paycheck deception bill were to become law,” said Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

This issue doesn’t only affect union workers. Members of Working America, alongside members from the faith community, sent hundreds of messages to legislators asking them to oppose paycheck deception.

“Paycheck deception won’t help educate Missouri’s children – but it will make it tougher for teachers to advocate for manageable class sizes,” wrote Fr. Steve Robeson of St. John’s Catholic Church in Imperial, MO, “It won’t create any jobs, but it will make it more difficult for hardworking public employees to do their jobs. We all deserve better.”

SB 29 was promoted by extremist Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, but it met opposition from both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, the bill was rammed through after a six-hour filibuster. In the House, the bill passed narrowly with every Democrat and 13 Republicans voting against it.

One of the Republicans to vote against the paycheck deception bill was Rep. Anne Zerr of St. Charles, seen here reading letters written to her by Working America members. Because of your activism, anti-worker forces in Missouri don’t have the votes needed to override Gov. Nixon’s veto. It just goes to show that when we take action, workers win.

Top image via Missouri AFL-CIO on Facebook.

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Missouri House Passes Paycheck Deception, but Veto Expected

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its corporate backers and extremist Missouri lawmakers may have won the first round in their drive to silence working people with a paycheck deception bill, when the House gave it final approval (86-69) earlier this week.

But thanks to a strong mobilization by Missouri working families and their unions and allies, the close vote—that included several Republicans who voted against the bill—means that Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) expected veto cannot be overridden. It takes a two-thirds majority vote to override.

Paycheck deception laws, like the one proposed in Missouri, create burdensome restrictions that interfere with union members’ rights to participate in the political and legislative process. These laws also weaken the ability of working people to advance working-family issues such as legislation that would create jobs and stop job outsourcing.

The Missouri bill mirrors paycheck deception-model legislation ALEC produces for its members, including at least 11 Missouri lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored bills straight out of the ALEC playbook, according to Progress Missouri.

After the bill’s passage, Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, told reporters:

This bill is all politics. Not one Missouri worker testified in favor of S.B. 29, and that’s because this bill has nothing to do with helping working people. Public workers in this state have faced an uphill fight for collective bargaining rights and are 50 in the nation in pay.

In fact, dozens of Show-Me State workers created a Tumblr blog, Working Voices, and recorded video messages speaking out against paycheck deception. Union, community and faith activists were a major presence at the state Capitol in Jefferson City during hearings and votes and helped shine a spotlight on the anti-workers’ legislation through actions in several cities and towns.

Bradley Harmon, the president of Communications Workers of America (CWALocal 6355, said:

This law is about protecting right-wing extremists and their corporate buddies, not about protecting anyone’s paycheck. That’s why we call it ‘paycheck deception.’

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EPI: Missouri’s Paycheck Deception Bills Not Necessary to Protect Workers

Resposted from AFL-CIO NOW

new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that two Missouri paycheck deception bills are not necessary to protect workers and they would limit the free speech and political spending of unions and organized workers, while allowing unlimited corporate spending on political causes.

Both federal and state laws already protect the political rights of private- and public-sector employees who join or are represented by unions. Paycheck deception supporters say their new bills are necessary to stop workers from being forced to pay to support a political cause they oppose, but current law already does that.  S.B. 29 and H.B. 64, the bills in question, are not designed to enhance individual rights but instead make it harder for employees to authorize payroll deductions for union use—even if the uses are not political. And, the bills are designed to foster conflicts between workers and unions. Not surprisingly, the bills, supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Legislative Exchange Council, would do nothing to change the current legal prerogatives of corporations and their lobbyists to freely spend on politics without complying with any particular process whatsoever.

From the EPI report:

“These ‘paycheck protection’ proposals reflect corporate lobbies’ unabashed attempts to enact a broad corporate economic agenda by crippling the ability of workers to participate in the political process,” said Gordon Lafer of the EPI. “Because the labor movement is the only vehicle through which millions of working Americans collectively pool sufficient resources—in the form of both financial contributions and organized volunteer efforts—to serve as an effective political counterweight to this agenda, eliminating union political activity promises to leave the corporate lobbies with an increasingly free hand to shape economic policy at the expense of workers.”

Read the full report.

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Don’t Believe Us? Hear It from Workers: Missouri’s Paycheck Deception Bill Is Bad for Working Families

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Missouri’s working families are speaking out about a paycheck deception bill that is moving through the state legislature.  We Are Missouri launched a new Tumblr blog, Working Voices, that showcases personal messages from Missouri working families to their elected representatives, asking them to reject the anti-worker agenda of the state legislature.  In this year’s session, Republicans in the legislature have pursued an agenda that includes paycheck deception, attacks on prevailing wage laws, and “right to work” for less proposals that are part of what We Are Missouri describes as a larger national plan to assault the rights of workers.

The site includes a wide variety of workers from around the state who have recorded video statements rejecting these type of legislative attacks, rather than addressing the real problems Missourians face.

Listen to teachers and utility, grocery store and factory workers (and more) talk about how paycheck deception will hurt working people.

Check out We Are Missouri’s Working Voices Tumblr for more stories.

We Are Missouri is asking state residents to call their state representatives and tell them to reject the paycheck deception bill at 1-888-907-9711.

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