Building & Trades Council honor civil and workers’ rights leaders
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – On August 26, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council held their fourth annual Leadership Awards dinner where they honored Nimrod Chapel Jr, President of NAACP of Missouri; Lyda Krewson, Mayor of St. Louis; and Missouri Representative Bob Burns, D-Affton. The winners were all write-in candidates, who have taken leadership positions for civil and workers’ rights causes. The event was held at the Cedars Banquet Hall in St. Louis and was attended by over 300 people, many of them community leaders and labor movement representatives.
Each year, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council selects applicants who has best represented workers’ rights in the past year. The 2017 legislative session has presented union advocates significant challenges after the Republican dominated Missouri Legislature passed right-to-work, St. Louis’ failed minimum wage increase, and SB 43.
SB 43, which amended the standard for filing a discrimination lawsuit from a ‘contributing’ to a ‘prevailing’ factor, was vehemently opposed by NAACP President, Nimrod Chapel. In February, Chapel was brought in to give testimony on SB 43 in front of the Special Committee on Litigation Reform. Chair of the committee, Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, silenced Chapel’s testimony when he was questioning Missouri’s record on civil rights. Lant also prevented Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, from asking Chapel questions.
Chapel told the Missouri Times in February that the bill was reminiscent of the Jim Crow Era and Lant’s actions and SB 43 enable prejudicial discrimination. After the bill passed, Chapel was behind the NCAAP issuing its first travel advisory for persons in the state of Missouri.
Chapel, the only recipient of the award who was not an elected official, was humbled when he was recognized for his leadership. “To be honest with you, it was something that I never expected so I’m totally honored. In terms of an award of that magnitude, I’m going to spend a lot of time trying to live up to the recognition and the honor that was bestowed on me that night,” he told the Missouri Times.
Mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, was also given an award for her advocacy for the city to receive a minimum wage increase to $10. In 2015, the city passed an ordinance that would gradually increase the minimum wage as much as $11 in January in 2018. The decision led to a Missouri Supreme Court decision, which the city eventually won. However, when the Grand Assembly passed HB 1193 and 1194, it established a statewide minimum wage of $7.70, blocking Krewson’s efforts for wage increases. In May, she issued a statement, calling the decision, “a setback for working families.”
Krewson made other impacts in St. Louis which included a city smoking ban, which prevents smokers in St. Louis from smoking outside of certain areas; efforts to amend Missouri’s concealed carry gun laws; and placing limits on ‘dark money’ campaign contributions from political nonprofits or Super PACs. When she received her award, she spoke about how she was going to continue to fight for civil and workers’ rights.
“‘Right-to-work’ is the biggest fish in this fight for Organized Labor, but it’s only one,” Krewson told the St. Louis Labor-Tribune, who covered the event. “Paycheck Deception? Two. Effort to repeal Prevailing Wage? Three. All of these seek to weaken the power of unions. Please know that I stand with you for all of these fights. You can count on that today, tomorrow, next week and next year.”
Finally, Burns was recognized for his efforts to fight against right-to-work. Along with Rep. Doug Beck, Burns was one of the loudest dissidents against the bill which passed in February. Since he was elected in 2012, he has been a long advocate for workers’ rights and labor unions.
At the event, he blamed the Republican majority in the Missouri Legislature for not respecting workers’ rights. Even though right-to-work passed, he was hopeful that it would not remain law. He praised efforts for union advocates to put right-to-work on the ballot in November of 2018. Organized Labor advocates collected over 300 thousand signatures to put the vote to the people.
“We need to make sure anyone who wants to get into a Labor organization has that path to get in,” he told the St. Louis Labor-Tribune, “because we are all equal in God’s eyes, and we deserve a chance and a right to make a decent living for our families.”