We knew ‘right-to-work’ was going to pass once the new Republican Governor came into office in January,” explains Allan Bathon, president of Missouri Local 335. “We haven’t sat down with the company [American Water] to talk about it yet. Our contract expires October 2019 so we have time to prepare.”
Getting active politically
Meanwhile, Bathon and his 350 members continue to build a positive relationship with the company to ensure the safe delivery of clean water to their 300,000 customers in St. Louis County.
That means tapping the National Union’s resources, such as bringing in Safety Director Scotty MacNeill to evaluate their safety program, and getting more involved politically, among other things.
“We’re supporting the company’s efforts to expand the state’s ‘move over law’ to include utility trucks,” Bathon says. “And in 2000 we supported an infrastructure rate charge to replace obsolete mains. We were doing pretty good putting new pipe in the ground, but that money was lost last year so we’re supporting legislation to get it back.”
Freeloaders aren’t welcome
Chartered in 1945, the local’s four seasoned officers are handling member questions on the state’s new “right-to-work” for less legislation and are communicating accurate information about what it might mean. The law is set to take effect August 28, 2017.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” Bathon says. “Some people think the union’s going away, so we’re settling nerves and telling members ‘the union’s here as long as you want it to be.’”
As to the effect of the law in the workplace, Bathon says, “A lot of members won’t want to work with freeloaders who don’t pay union dues but enjoy all the benefits of the contract and representation. I think that would cause a lot of animosity. We’ll do our best to see that doesn’t happen.”
There’s a good chance the “right-to-work” for less legislation will be overturned in a statewide referendum, much like what happened in Ohio several years ago.
The Missouri AFL-CIO and the state’s NAACP have filed a petition for such a referendum. If successful, “right-to-work” won’t take effect until citizens have a chance to vote on the issue in 2018.
Bathon, a Shop 1 Mechanic, and his members, who run four production plants and work out of the service center, are making plans with Safety Director MacNeill and the company to improve safety. Utilizing a method developed at New York Local 1-2, union members are being trained to go out to jobsites with their co-workers to look at how they work and show them ways to work more safely. Management is not present at these site visits, no names or locations are shared, and nothing is written down so no one can be disciplined.
While it has yet to be determined the effect of the “right-to-work” for less law on the local and the workplace, safety is improving through the efforts of the union and the company working together.