By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent – St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune
When Kelsea Husley watched the results of the Nov. 8 election and learned Eric Greitens had won the Missouri governor’s seat, she broke down in tears.
That’s because the Republican had pledged his first order of business as governor would be making Missouri a “right-to-work” state. Husley’s husband Nicholas joined Laborers’ Local 110 a year ago.
“I was up until 5 a.m. just sick with worry and fear of the unknown,” she said. “Everything that my husband and I had accomplished was going to be literally taken away from us overnight.”
A PERSONAL MISSION
Rather than get mad, the 25-year-old Park Hills legal secretary made it her mission to edcuate others on the real meaning of “right-to-work.” She started a Facebook page called Missouri Wives and Families Against Right to Work.
“A lot of people don’t understand what ‘right-to-work’ is and how harmful it can be to working families,” Hulsey said. “I just felt like I had to be the voice for union wives because I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, who else will?’”
THE HULSEYS’ STORY
A week before their wedding in 2013, Nicholas was laid off from Sabreliner, an aircraft manufacturing and repair facility where he worked as a painter. Federal defense budget cuts led to the layoffs. He was a member of Teamsters Local 600.
“At that time, jobs were very hard to come by, even with him having an associate’s degree,” Hulsey said. “So he started looking for jobs outside of Missouri.”
THE MOVE TO INDIANA, A ‘RIGHT-TO-WORK’ STATE
A month later, Nicholas found a similar job in Indiana – a “right-to-work” state. The couple moved and lived there about a year.
“We experienced firsthand what ‘right-to-work’ is, and it was sickening,” Hulsey said. “The hours he had to work were outrageous and he worked for less than half of what he makes now. We were constantly stressing out and wondering if we would ever be able to start a family because after all, we were newlyweds.”
Nicholas was finally able to find a job in Missouri working for the railroads as a member of SMART Local 1823. The couple moved back to the state for a fresh start. After about a year, he was laid off again. That’s when he decided to join Laborers’ Local 110.
A GREAT JOB IN MISSOURI AND PLANS TO START A FAMILY
“Nicholas has never been so happy,” Hulsey said. “He loves his job, and we have thrived. He has wonderful wages and insurance benefits.”
In August, the couple decided it was time to start trying to expand their family.
“We were finally in such a good place in life,” Husley said. “We were having fertility issues, but we were working through them because we have such wonderful insurance and can afford to try different treatments.”
DREAMS PUT ON HOLD
After the November election, the couple put their dream of having a family on hold.
“It terrifies me what ‘right-to-work’ could do to our economy here in Missouri,” Hulsey said. “I have lived in a ‘right-to-work’ state, and I don’t feel like I personally can raise a child in that type of economy, and I pray for those who will have to.”
FROM WHITE-COLLAR DAUGHTER TO BLUE-COLLAR WIFE
Hulsey herself did not come from a union family. Her father was a chiropractor. Nine members of Nicholas’ family are union members.
“I’m a white-collar daughter who’s become a blue-collar wife,” she said. “I’m just hoping that by sharing my story, I’ll be able to educate others on what ‘right-to-work’ really means.”
Here is the link to the Missouri Wives and Families Against Right to Work Facebook page.