Those who want representation need to pay for it

I have been reading with some interest about the continued effort of the Republicans in Missouri's State Legislature to pass right to work legislation in the upcoming session.

I grew up in a union household. With my Dad being a strong union supporter and eventually a union representative in his shop and later at the national level, I was very aware of the benefits and security the union shop afforded us.

I am retired now but worked many years in an industry where the UAW is the union which represents the hourly workers. Missouri was then, as it is now, a closed shop state. Meaning that in order to have the representation, you had to be a dues-paying member of the union. I hired in as an hourly employee and worked the line off and on for several years.

There were a couple of times that I was very glad that I had the representation of the committeeman and was more than happy to pay my dues. I attended meetings, walked the picket line and collected strike benefits. As a union member, I felt obligated to support the union. My wages and benefits were a direct result of the bargaining efforts which the UAW made on my behalf.

I also worked for a short period of time in Kansas, a right to work state, at the auto plant in Fairfax. I joined the local over there and paid dues. I felt that it was my responsibility to pay my share to have the representation, benefits and wages afforded me as a member of the UAW and an employee of General Motors. More than once I was asked why the local at the Leeds plant was so much stronger than that at the Fairfax plant. I can only think that it was because all the employees at the Missouri plant supported their union, while some at the Fairfax were in it for the "free ride."

I did not then and cannot now understand how a person, in good conscience, can expect to reap the same benefits, wages and representation without joining and paying their share, the monthly dues.

However, after a few years of employment and being a member of the union, I decided that myself and my family would be better served by leaving the bargaining unit and I accepted a salaried position at the plant. But I always recognized that my salary and benefits were a direct offshoot of the sacrifices and efforts made by the union members before and after my move.

Over the years, things changed. While the UAW still was there for the hourly workers, the salaried ranks were no longer afforded the same (and in some cases, better) benefit structure. Health care, retirement and a feeling of job security were deteriorating to the point that many of those who could, left their salaried jobs to rejoin the union ranks, for which those benefits were negotiated and pretty much guaranteed. They were willing to pay the dues.

I did then, and I do now, think that if a person expects the union benefits, they should be willing to pay their share of the cost.

Gary West



Legislature needs to address funding for MPERS

The Missouri Department of Transportation and Patrol Employees’ Retirement System is dramatically underfunded and the Republican-led House and Senate and governor have done nothing to fix the problem.

The $2 billion fund has about 15,000 members. Last year the fund took in $205 million, earned $92 million and paid out $242 million. Unfortunately, this is based upon a pie-in-the-sky 7.75 percent actuarial return. Even at that MPERS, is 55 percent funded. With low interest rates and financial markets at all-time highs, the fund is probably more like 40 percent funded and the actuarial return should be lowered to 5 percent.

The legislature is not properly funding the plan and lying to its members. Both the participants and agencies need to increase contributions. Like so many problems in Jefferson City, this has not been addressed.

Holmes Osborne