Speakers at last Monday’s celebration of Harry S Truman’s birthday, held at the Martin Center in Marshall, were (left to right): Will Wilder, Let America Vote, Kansas City; Lee Asher, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Farmington; Joe Aull, formerly of Marshall and Missouri State Representative (2004-2012) 26th District, Lexington; Phil Scaglia, campaign manager, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th District, Kansas City.
The president of Saline County Democrat Club, the Rev. Mary Williams, and its officers brought members of the SCDC, the Saline Democratic Committee and Mid-Missouri Progressive together two times in the first eight days of May.
Stephen Webber, chairman of the State Democrat Party, addressed the first dinner meeting May 1. Four speakers from throughout the state then spoke Monday night, May 8, at the dinner and celebration honoring former President Harry S Truman’s birthday.
“Moving Forward” was the theme at Monday evening’s celebration, held at the Martin Community Center, in Marshall. Speeches touched on topics from voter suppression, prevailing wage, the importance of communicating opinions, and standing up for the common person.
“Voter suppression of American citizens has stepped up all across the country,” said Will Wilder, director of Let America Vote. “It happens at the local level as people make it more difficult for U.S. citizens to vote. The problem is not that people are voting illegally. The problem is that methods are being used to disenfranchise legal voters.” When local governing bodies close polling places, move the polls to hard-to-get-to venues and move voting to areas that cannot be reached by walking, voter disenfranchisement is occurring.
Lee Asher, business agent of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, also spoke Monday evening. He spoke of issues local workers could be facing.
“We are facing a crisis for local workers … and that means local Saline County workers,” Asher said. “The Missouri Legislature’s attempting to overturn prevailing wage statutes. In February, they passed Senate Bill 19 – the so-called Right to Work law. Both actions hurt Saline County workers.”
The result is that Saline County residents lose out on work and they lose jobs in their own county, he said.
“Since January, the Missouri House and Senate have sent forward many bills to repeal the prevailing wage statues. Those statutes protect construction workers. When they are repealed, monies leave Saline County.”
Asher said that under current statutes, workers get the prevailing wage for their craft in each county.
“In Saline County, when those statutes are repealed, then lower paid and lower skilled workers construct Saline County highways, bridges, renovations of all public buildings and schools,” Asher said.
Phillip Scaglia, president of Powerful Performance Solutions LLC, and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver 5th District campaign chair, spoke about communication on issues.
“Your opinions have an impact on your elected representatives,” said Scaglia. “That’s important today as core issues fundamental to democracy are being attacked … Here are those core issues and what Democrats care about – education, fair wages, health care, accessible voting, trade that is fair to U.S. businesses and workers.”
He talked about every official’s responsibility of representing all their constituents.
Congressional leaders have to pay attention to feedback citizens who “collectively engage on the proposals that have an impact on us all.”
“We must instill in voters the urgency of casting their votes,” he said. “Take a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance and walk them through every election” because that election matters to them.
Also speaking Monday evening was Joe Aull, who represented this area in the Missouri House of Representatives until his term ended in 2012.
“What happened to the Democrats?” asked Aull. “Democrats stand for the common person – we did that through Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton – that is what we are known for.”
Yet after the 2016 elections, not only did Democrats lose the national elections, “in Missouri, the Republicans have a super majority,” he said. “Republicans had 60 percent of the vote and Democrats had 30 percent.”
For instance, when Aull was serving in the Missouri House, “I support rifles for hunters, but supporting gun owners to buy war weapons without a criminal background check is irresponsible,” he said. He noted that opponents framed him as against citizens owning guns, but that was false.
The Harry S Truman Birthday Celebration was held on what would have been Truman’s 133rd birthday. He was born May 8, 1884, in Lamar. He served as vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became the 33rd president of the United States in 1945 after Roosevelt’s death.
Note: Jean Gaddy Wilson contributed information to this article.