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story.lead_photo.caption Bart Mersch of Local 36 Sheet Metal Workers in St. Louis, makes a 360-degree turn while showing his homemade sign Wednesday during a labor rally at the Capitol. He and several sheet metal workers, iron workers, electrical workers and many more labor union members were in attendance at the rally, which featured a brief speech by Sen. Claire McCaskill and other elected labor supporters. Photo by Julie Smith / California Democrat.

The Missouri Senate's General Laws Committee heard from right-to-work supporters Wednesday. Read that article here.

Several hundred labor union members and their supporters rallied Wednesday afternoon outside the Capitol, promising to get out the vote and block Missouri's right-to-work law from going into effect.

The law prohibits any contract or employer from requiring someone to be a union member, or to pay dues or fees to a union, in order to hold a job.

After several previous efforts were vetoed by Democrat governors, the General Assembly last year passed the law and Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed it.

However, union members gathered 310,000 signatures on a petition for a statewide referendum on whether the law ultimately should go into effect.

That vote, on what's been named as Proposition A, will be Nov. 6 — unless lawmakers move it to the Aug. 7 primary election.

State Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors and president of the Missouri Building and Trades Construction Council, told the rally: "I stood on TV last week, and I told everybody in the state, it doesn't matter when they vote on Prop A — we will be there!

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"We are going to send a clear message to these folks, come election time — Prop A wants to tear down what we've built."

Approving a right-to-work law in Missouri "means lower wages, fewer rights and less protections for your families," she argued, noting the law is one of many examples where "union workers and our families are under attack again and again and again."

However, the pro-labor rally also was a Democratic event, with Greitens and Attorney General Josh Hawley the top targets of the labor members' ire.

Labor's opponents "will show up with their dark money and their Washington crowd, with Eric Greitens and Josh Hawley leading the way," Walsh said. "They don't answer to folks like you and me — the money's too much.

"To them, we're just the 'populists.' We're not the 'people' who sent them here; we're not the voters of the state of Missouri."

"Dark money" is a reference to campaign contributions made through organizations that don't have to report who donated, or how much was donated.

Leaders like Greitens and Hawley are "bought and paid for by the special interests who want to push Missouri to the bottom of the pile for wages and rights," Walsh said. "But we can stop them, by defeating Prop A."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill "stands up for working men and women and against Washington insiders," Walsh said as she introduced the Missouri Democrat running for a third, six-year term in the federal Senate. "She's never been afraid to stand up to the status quo, and make things better for working families of this state."

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McCaskill told the rally the day was "a day that we're going to take a stand for Missourians" and "to call out fake populists," which she defined as "a guy with an Ivy League education that rides into office on the back of one of the richest men in Missouri, who has made his life's work to destroy labor unions in the state of Missouri."

She didn't name Hawley, but told reporters she expects he will win the Republicans' 11-candidate primary for U.S. Senate and become her main opponent in the November general election.

"You can't be a populist and support 'right to work for less,'" McCaskill added, "because what this really is, is about something that's so American and so important to the future of this country.

"It is a very simple principle — that men and women can join together and collectively have a voice in their wages and their benefits."

Wednesday's gathering was promoted as a "Rally for the Middle Class," and McCaskill told the union members: "It is, in fact, the labor unions of this state that have made the middle class work."

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat appointed to the job after Republican Tom Schweich died by suicide in 2015, is running in her first statewide election.

She told Wednesday's rally, "What is going on in your state government today is profoundly troubling, and at the root of it is the troubling influence of secret, dark money. Policy change and influence is being bought in the shadows."

Galloway argued Greitens, in just one month this year, "funneled more than $1.1 million from his dark money group to fight against you (and) Prop A."

She questioned a conservative philosophy that states "if we just reduce the wages paid to working people, we'll all be better off."

However, Galloway said, "The data from other states (shows that) those that have implemented similar anti-labor policies are not better off economically — they're doing worse."

State Sen. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said: "We've got to prevent, and undo, some terrible policies that have been enacted by this Legislature and that governor.

"If we fail, the people who want to take away our rights and cut our pay and give our jobs to someone else — they won't let up. They won't stop.

"They'll keep coming back for you, your family (and) your family's way of life."

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