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Union groups urge Luetkemeyer to back their job plans

Union groups urge Luetkemeyer to back their job plans

December 12th, 2013 in News

This story was EDITED at noon on Thursday to correct the identity of the person making some of the comments in it.

As Congress continues wrestling with federal government budget issues, two Missouri-based unions on Wednesday challenged U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer to support changes that - the groups said - would help create thousands of new jobs in Missouri.

However, Luetkemeyer said in a statement, he already supports some 40 House-passed bills to create jobs - that the U.S. Senate has blocked.


Several times during a 15-minute telephone conference call Wednesday afternoon, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) emphasized Congress can fix the nation's jobs problems with three easy steps.

"Closing federal tax loopholes for corporations and for Wall Street, and making sure everyone pays their fair share of taxes could create more than 74,000 jobs in Missouri, in three years," said Pamela Merritt, communications director for the group Progress Missouri.

Jennifer Hargreaves, secretary-treasurer for AFSCME Council 72 - and a state Mental Health department caregiver - said: "The number one problem with Congress right now is job-creation.

"Most conservatives, like Congressman Luetkemeyer, seem to be obsessed with killing jobs rather than creating them - and they are unwilling to take the steps needed to create jobs, to turn our economy around."

In his statement, Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, countered: "Putting the welfare of hard-working Missourians first has always been my top priority.

"I have supported dozens of pieces of legislation that would put people back to work by creating high-quality jobs but, unfortunately, 40 of those jobs-creating bills are blocked by the Senate."

Hargreaves cited an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study "which shows how a few changes in the (federal) tax code would make it more fair - for us - and it also would allow us to make investments that would help our economy and create jobs."

AFSCME's Missouri-centric version of the report, called "The Perfect Match for Missouri - Coupling Tax Fairness with Job Creation for a Strong Economy," says the federal tax code "was fundamentally changed in the last few decades in ways favoring wealthy and high-income households (because) the top marginal tax rate fell from 70 percent during the 1970s, to 50 percent through most of the 1980s, to 35 percent for the past decade."

The Missouri report notes it was "prepared by AFSCME from a post on EPI's Working Economics blog."

Hargreaves said the report also supports the need for "millionaires (to) pay the same (tax) rate as the rest of us."

The report also says there should be "a small tax on the sales of financial products (so that) large sums of revenue can be raised in a progressive manner while dampening volatility and without distorting productive economic activity."

But Luetkemeyer said he opposes "tax increases because that takes money out of the pockets of Missourians who deserve to keep more of their hard-earned dollars, which in turn sparks economic growth, job creation, and higher wages."

Bradley Harmon, president of Communications Workers Local 6355 - and on a leave of absence from being a child protective services worker in the state's Children's Division of the Social Services department - said Wednesday that "one of the biggest factors that put a child at risk of being abused or neglected is that their parents live in poverty."

More jobs with better wages could help that, he said.

Conservative commentators have said for years that the nation's wealthiest people are paying for most government operations, not the lower-income taxpayers.

But, Alexandra Townsend, a spokeswoman for AFSCME's Council 72, said the unions' plan is "three super-simple (ideas) that are the first-steps in the right direction."

Asked about growing support for a national right-to-work policy - where employees could not be forced to join a union if they didn't want to - Townsend said: "I think that you see in states that have passed bills like the so-called right to work, people make less and, therefore, can spend less - and their economies aren't doing nearly as well as Missouri."

Although not included in his statement Wednesday, Luetkemeyer previously has said the U.S. can do a better job of creating jobs if it stops trying to over-regulate agriculture and energy production.