Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Editorial Response by Karen Howard

I read with great alarm Daniel Mehan’s op-ed in the KC Star about Senate Bill 188.  Not only are Mr. Mehan’s comments highly inaccurate, they are misleading and fail to inform the public as to the true impact of Senate Bill 188 on Missouri citizens.  Mr. Mehan’s misguided comments are are just the tip of the iceberg as to what is actually occurring in Missouri in the current legislative session, and that is, many Missouri legislators, at the behest of big business are very quietly destroying the rights of Missouri citizens, hoping Missouri citizens will not catch on until it is too late.

To be direct, what happened in Wisconsin is what is happening in Missouri.  The only difference is that the erosion of our rights by the business lobbyists and their “paid for” legislators in Missouri are doing it much quieter than in Wisconsin.  The business lobbyists and their paid for legislators are quickly and quietly attempting to pass bills which destroy Missouri citizens’ rights, hoping Missouri citizens will not notice.

How did this happen?  Prior to the legislative session, big business interests including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce (its president is Mehan), targeted several areas to weaken and destroy the rights of Missouri citizens.  These areas include using business’ clout and money to get bills passed which reduce corporations’ responsibility for paying the franchise tax, reduce the minimum wages of Missouri workers, restricting the rights of Missouri workers to seek compensation for work-related injuries, making Missouri a right to work state, and importantly, destroying the Missouri Human Rights Act, which provides protection to Missouri workers.

SB 188 is the bill which will destroy the strong enforcement provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act.  Senate bill 188 makes it easier for employers and the government to fire employees because of their religious beliefs, disability, race, age and sex.  SB 188 lets the individual boss or sexual harasser completely off the hook for discriminating and retaliating.  If SB 188 passes, it will be harder, if not impossible for employees to prove discrimination.  It gives the individual wrong-doer, including workplace sexual predators a free pass to do it over and over, without accountability.

It is important to realize, that even though we do not want to believe it, there are sexual predators in the workplace.  They may work with you, or even may work in the same restaurant or store where your children work.  They may even be working at the same school where your children attend.  I have represented individuals who were assaulted in their workplace by predators, and some have been children.  The Missouri Human Rights Act helps to keep the workplace safe for Missouri citizens, including our children.   Without the Missouri Human Rights Act in its current state, there is no accountability and predators can remain in the workplace.  How would we all feel if a sexual predator is not held accountable and one of our own children becomes a victim?  We must work hard to keep the Missouri Human Rights Act as it is stated now.  The Missouri Human Rights Act helps to prevent unlawful termination.  I have represented Missouri workers who were fired, once their employer found out they had cancer or some other debilitating disease or injury.  I have represented Missouri workers who have been fired because they were “too old.”  Those individuals have been protected by the Missouri Human Rights Act.  If Senate Bill 188  is passed, employers can fire persons who are ill or disabled, or “too old”, or the wrong color or gender, without any accountability.  

The effect of Senate Bill 188 on every citizen is obvious:  When you or a member of your family needs these laws to protect you, the laws will no longer exist to protect you or your children.  And then you will ask, what happened?

Some people may think, discrimination can never happen to me or my child, but it can.  Discrimination can occur even though you are not aware of it until it actually happens to you.  You show up for work one day, and without notice you are handed an empty box to put your belongings in because you have been terminated, even though you are satisfactorily performing the duties of your job.  Security then walks you out the door in front of your co-workers.  If SB 188 has been passed, you will have no effective recourse, because SB 188 has taken away your rights.  

These business groups and the legislators who sponsor and vote for these bills are rolling back the clock on workers’ rights and safety.  But they want to do it quietly - in a whisper.  Not like Wisconsin, where when people found out, they came out of their homes and told the governor and republicans - NO.
Missouri citizens deserve continued protection and should not be sacrificed to the interests of big business who care only about profits and are trampling on citizens’ rights.  Big business should not rule Missouri.  As citizens, we need to stand up now and say NO.  As voters, we need to tell our representatives to listen to all of their constituency, not just the chamber of commerce and big businesses who give these legislators large campaign contributions and who then sponsor these anti-workers bills.  We need to tell our representatives to vote against Senate Bill 188 and these other bills.  Voters need to tell their representatives they will vote them out if they vote for these bills.  After all, every Missouri legislator was voted in by the people and given the responsibility to represent the people and not big business.  

Karen Howard

No comments:

Post a Comment