Flickr/Creative Commons photo provided by Senator McCaskill’s office.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill during a Senate committee hearing.

Missouri voters struck a massive win for working families in August, voting down the state’s right-to-work law by a more than 2-1 margin.

McCaskill has consistently sided with labor on bread-and-butter issues, including opposing right-to-work and supporting project labor agreements.
Flickr/Creative Commons photo provided by Senate Democrats.

Now is the time to show politicians who supported the law that their anti-worker position comes with a price, Missouri political director and former Kansas City Local 124 President Rudy Chavez said. And the closely-watched Senate race in the Show-Me State offers a chance to do just that.

“What I am trying to tell our members is we’ve got to re-elect Claire McCaskill,” Chavez said. “We absolutely have to.”

McCaskill, a two-term incumbent, has a 90 percent lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO, including 100 percent in 2017. She has long been an opponent of right-to-work and a supporter of organized labor.

Not surprisingly, she cheered the August referendum’s results.

“Missouri spoke out in a very strong voice and said, ‘No, we don’t want this to be a race to the bottom,’” McCaskill said while visiting a Teamsters local union in Springfield, Mo., according to the Springfield News-Leader. “Now, I have an opponent who wasn’t with Missouri on that issue.”

Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general and her GOP opponent, supported the right-to-work law and has accepted “dark money” contributions from groups espousing policies that harm voters outside the top 1 percent.

He accepted more than $3 million from Joplin, Mo., business owner David Humphreys, who spent millions more pushing for passage of the right-to-work law, during his 2016 campaign for Missouri attorney general. Humphreys also has been a top Hawley donor during the Senate campaign.

He’s also refused to take a position on a November ballot measure that would gradually raise Missouri’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 over the next five years.

Hawley has softened his comments on right-to-work recently, with his spokesperson telling reporters he respects the will of the voters. But his contributors and previous comments indicate he will enthusiastically support it if elected.

Right-to-work laws, which have been adopted in 27 states, allow workers to enjoy the benefits of a union-negotiated contract without having to pay fees. It does not force them to join a union. That is prohibited by law. Fees are only used to negotiate and fairly enforce a collectively-bargained agreement, not for political purposes.

Supporters frame it as a right to choose, but the purpose of right-to-work laws is to drive down wages and lessen the power of labor to fight corporate greed.

Some conservative members of Congress introduced a national right-to-work law in 2017. It didn’t get very far, but Chavez said the threat of it won’t go away as long as Republicans control both the House, Senate and the White House.

That’s why this election is so important for Missourians and the nation, Chavez said. It makes little sense to elect a politician so dedicated to right-to-work after soundly defeating the law just a few months earlier.

“We can’t win in August and not vote in November,” Chavez said. “We have to continue to elect our own people to have a backstop against a national right-to-work law.”

McCaskill has stepped up for working families on other issues. She voted against the Trump Administration’s tax bill in which the overwhelming majority of tax cuts went to the very wealthy. She’s been a longtime supporter of the Davis-Bacon Act, which ensures workers are paid local prevailing wages on federally-supported construction projects.

She also stood up for IBEW members and other workers when she joined a bipartisan group of senators in 2014 that urged the Environmental Protection Agency to slow implementation of a Clean Power Plan.

McCaskill and others recognized the need to address global warming, but they urged the Obama Administration to allow states more time to submit goals for cutting carbon dioxide emissions, helping to protect jobs and slow rate hikes.

She’s also shown an independent streak, siding with the Trump administration on nearly 45 percent of her votes during the last two years, the fifth-highest total of any Democratic senator.

Still, it won’t be an easy fight in the state, which Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016. Polls have consistently showed a statistical dead heat. A recent CNN poll had McCaskill with a 3-point advantage, but others have showed Hawley with a lead.

“It’s as tight as can be,” Chavez said.

That means getting out the vote is crucial. Chavez said that whatever side rallies its base the most will win. IBEW members and their allies in Missouri can ensure that a candidate who has consistently supported them on key issues will return to the Senate.

“We’re trying to feed off the momentum of the right-to-work victory,” Chavez said. “And returning Claire McCaskill to the Senate is critically important to the working families of Missouri.”