Reforming Government Unions Would Provide Greater Worker Choice

Reforming Government Unions Would Provide Greater Worker Choice



Government unions negotiate with taxpayer dollars, yet they are not held accountable to their own members or to Missouri taxpayers.  With the rate of government union membership five times that of union membership in the private sector, now is the time to enact government union reform on behalf of Missouri workers.

The reforms we believe are needed in Missouri would ensure government unions act in the best interest of their members and are held accountable to taxpayers. Senator Bob Onder and Representative John Wiemann have been leading the effort to implement common sense reforms in the Missouri legislature.

First, Missouri workers should have a voice in deciding who best represents their interests.  Most current government union members have never voted to choose their representation and certify their union.  Once a union is certified as the exclusive representative, there are limited options for changing representation.

Meaningful government union reform would require regular recertification elections, giving workers the option to renew current representation, choose new representation or vote to have no exclusive representation.

Wisconsin enacted legislation in 2011 to require annual recertification elections.  Government unions in Wisconsin must receive the support of 51 percent of all eligible voters.  In 2013, the first year the elections were held, 80 percent of unions were able to win recertification.  In 2014, 92 percent recertified.  Government unions in Missouri should not be concerned about decertification as long as they satisfactorily represent their members.  Unions that do a poor job representing their members should be held accountable.

Second, Missouri taxpayers should have the same right to access government union contract negotiations as they have to monitor legislative hearings.  Legal loopholes exempt government union negotiations from the state open records and open meetings laws.  Since government unions negotiate with tax dollars, we support reforms to classify meetings and records concerning government union labor agreements as public meetings and records subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

Third, Missouri workers should know how their government union spends their dues.  Private sector unions are required to file financial disclosures with the Department of Labor for union members and the public to review.  Government unions should be held to at least the same transparency standards.  Government union reform should require annual reporting of financial assets and liabilities; itemized expenditures; union officer and members’ salaries and benefits; lobbying expenditures; and political contributions.

Fourth, our state government should not be bound indefinitely to unsustainable agreements with unions.  Evergreen clauses can bind parties to agreements many years beyond the original term, thereby allowing unions to keep favorable terms in effect even when the government cannot afford it.  Government union reform should prohibit any government union labor agreement from exceeding two years to prevent one party from keeping favorable terms in place beyond the original agreement’s end date.

Government union reform is needed in Missouri and we hope the next General Assembly takes action to make reform a reality.  The reform efforts we have laid out will empower workers over union bosses and will shine much needed light on the activities of government unions.

How the Insurance Market is Responding to Obamacare


How the Insurance Market Is Responding to Obamacare

I split my time pretty evenly between Washington, D.C., and my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. In D.C., if you want to get your fix of crony capitalism or government mandates, they’re only a step away at any time. But if you want to capture a perfect specimen of crony capitalism and government overreach in the wild, it’s a little more difficult out here in “Flyover Country.”

So you can imagine my fascination when an organization called the “Institute for Clinical and Economic Review” announced it was coming to town to give us just such a perfect example. Even the name is perfectly “Kafkaesque.”

In the wake of ridiculous Obamacare mandates, the insurance industry is under tremendous cost pressure to deny its customers access to expensive life-saving drugs. But those insurance companies don’t want to take the public relations hit for denial of these drugs that cost billions in research and development to get to market, hence the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

The institute helpfully steps into the breach and, with funding directly from the insurance industry and its allies, produces “research” that even liberals acknowledge vastly limits patients’ access to life-saving drugs.

Essentially, the insurance industry is passing on largely bogus research through a front group, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, that gives insurance companies leverage to deny coverage to expensive cures. It’s a perfect example of Washington, D.C.-style self-dealing and crony capitalism.

What this denial of service leads to is exactly the kind of drug rationing that free market conservatives have been warning about for years, usually to vocal derision from the left.

That’s not the only terrifying thing about the institute’s process, however. At the St. Louis event—which was held to determine if new drugs for a deadly blood cancer are worth their cost (despite their ability to extend life)—one of its paid staff helpfully told us that 70 percent of the organization’s funding came from nonprofits.

As if that kind of opacity is supposed to make us feel any better. Shoot, the Center for American Progress is a nonprofit too, but I wouldn’t let those guys change my tire, let alone decide what lifesaving drugs my child can access. That’s one thing you’ll find about the institute: A consistent lack of transparency. Despite its claims that it’s pristinely funded by nonprofits, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that the institute is actually mostly funded by the insurance industry.

But have no fear, we were told by the organization’s representatives in St. Louis! What could possibly go wrong with the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s procedures? Well, for starters, how about the fact that its processes have been likened to the British socialized health care system.

Sure to upset my fellow pro-lifers are the implications of quality-adjusted life years—the key to the institute’s methodology to determine the “value” of drugs. Quality-adjusted life years, which are used in Britain to ration drugs, expressly say that the sick and elderly’s lives are worth less than younger, healthier people’s lives.

Opponents will say that the institute’s reach only impacts the private market. And yet, there are troubling signs that its rationing will soon start to infect the public market as well.

And it’s likely that the institute is coming to a town near you. The group’s regional bodies will hold public meetings, like the one in St. Louis, across the country in the coming months, including Los Angeles this month and Portland, Maine, in July. That’s bad news for patients and good news for the insurance companies that benefit from the institute’s manipulation of the media. The institute has effectively sold the press that it’s a “trusted” and “independent” nonprofit.

Not so. Rather, it means price controls. Drug rationing. The tip of the death panel spear. Crony capitalism. Self-dealing. Lack of transparency. Links to European-style socialized medicine. Ties to the Obama administration. And a direct threat to our pro-life beliefs. There is truly something in the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review for every conservative to hate.

What We Should Learn After Religious Liberty Fight in Missouri

What We Should Learn After Religious Liberty Fight in Missouri

By Gregg Keller


By now you’ve likely read or heard of the knock-down, drag-out fight that we had at the Missouri legislature on Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39. If passed by simple legislative majorities, SJR 39 would have placed a ballot question on either the August or November ballot pertaining to religious liberty.

Missouri voters would then decide if government should be prevented from punishing (through adverse tax treatment, revocation of licensing, court fines and other means) clergy and small business owners connected to the wedding industry (wedding planners, bakers, etc.) who refused to take part in gay weddings as a result of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

After a 40-hour filibuster by Democrats in the Missouri Senate, the measure moved to the relevant House committee, where it continued to be a source of tremendous attention and controversy.

I was among the most frequent and vociferous supporters of SJR39 on social networks and learned several lessons that might prove useful to fellow conservatives who take up such a fight in the future.

1) Yes, the culture wars have moved this far, this fast. Get over it.

I’m old enough to have worked on George W. Bush’s campaign in Missouri in 2004 when we also had on the ballot a pro-traditional marriage initiative. It passed 71-29. I was as incredulous as most people in Missouri when I realized our House might balk at SJR 39. This fight is coming to a state legislature near you, if it hasn’t already. Get your incredulity out of the way now.

2) Both sides are 100 percent committed to the idea of their own righteousness.

I’ve never worked on a public policy issue where both sides were so entrenched about the righteousness of their position. I’ve always found that liberals take politics far more personally than conservative—they take this issue especially personally. If you engage on this issue and have liberal friends, be prepared to lose some of them.

3) Your friends in business aren’t committed.

Remember those generous business people who fund the Republican campaigns you’ve spent so much time around? Well, they think you’re a troglodyte on this issue and they’d prefer you just go back to the phone bank room now, thank you.

4) The other side’s public officials want this fight more than ours.

Missouri’s elected Democrats were in absolute lockstep in opposing SJR39. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve beat them so badly over the years in House and Senate races that there’s only a handful of them left and they’re confined to the city centers.

Their people not only were in total agreement on the matter but desperately wanted to take this fight on. We had some committed Republicans on our side, particularly in the Senate. But among House Republicans some were for it, some were against it. But the most common refrain among House Republicans was that they’d vote for if they had to but they really didn’t want to have to go against the donor and business communities.

5) We can’t allow our surrogates and supporters to become the story.

I remember well the exact moment that I realized we were going to lose the battle over SJR39. I had been texting with a House Republican who matter-of-factly referred to the head of a statewide conservative organization by a nasty nickname. It was immediately apparent to me that, after attacking him incessantly on social networks for days, our opposition had succeeded in making this leader the issue. They had turned him into the face of our effort, and a caricature at that. Remember that every post you do to social networks could become fodder for the other side; choose your words carefully.

6) Social networks matter. A lot. And the other side is using them much better than we are.

Many of our House and Senate Republicans were glued to #SJR39 on Twitter during the debate and it was a critical platform to changing hearts and minds. I can’t tell you how many people mentioned tweets of mine to me after the fact. So engaging in this way is critical. But generally speaking, pro-SJR39 voices were swamped by the opposition on social networks. Particularly when hearings were being conducted. The population as a whole agrees, but they’re not making it known where and when it matters most.

7) Don’t wait for the cavalry, it isn’t coming.

On the day that SJR was to be decided I spent most of the day driving to and from appointments, listening to Rush Limbaugh on KMOX in St. Louis. If he mentioned a word about this critical cultural vote going on in his home state that very day, I managed to miss it. That was my experience with national conservative and religious leadership as a whole—they just didn’t show up. So when this battle comes to your state, don’t incorporate outside support into your plans – plan for them to be absent.

8) You have to try to find a way to be winsome if you’re going to win hearts and minds.

In the days following this battle I found myself exhausted by it all and not a little bit glad the fight was over for the time being, even if we did lose. As a committed, emotionally involved activist, you must constantly try to keep your cool in this battle when all others around you are losing theirs.

You can’t win hearts and minds with vinegar—only with honey. In the month-long battle I failed myself on this a couple of times and it’s among my greatest regrets about the whole episode.

Gregg Keller is the principal of Atlas Strategy Group and a former National Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Millennials are risk-averse. And that’s risky.

Millennials are risk-averse. And that’s risky.

When I was 24 years old I was living and working in Boston. I had a great job in finance that paid decently and allowed me to use my then-fluency in Spanish, doing Latin American equity research for a Fortune 500 Company. I loved the city and had a large and growing cohort of friends and colleagues. Shortly thereafter I would leave the city, my job and my friends and move to a city where I had no immediate employment prospects.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years. It’s 2003 and I’m living in St. Louis, Missouri with the good fortune of having just worked as the Travel Assistant (Body Man) in the most highly targeted U.S. Senate campaign in the nation. The campaign helped return the Senate to Republican hands and my candidate, whom I had gone grown close to over the course of the campaign, is now a promising freshman Senator. I’d quickly leave a steady job in that Senator’s office to take a short-term job on another campaign.

Now jump ahead to 2014. I’ve spent the last six years of my life running two of America’s largest center-right public policy organizations. I’ve traveled the country, spoken in front of thousands of people and built tremendous relationships with many of the top professionals in my field. I’m well compensated and have thoroughly enjoyed my work. Clearly, it was time to leave those endeavors and start something completely unproven and risky: my own business.

Those are just a few examples of the kinds of calculated risks I’ve taken throughout my 15 years in grassroots politics. Some of the risks paid off. And a few didn’t. But today I find myself the owner of a successful small business that makes me feel fulfilled, both personally and professionally. And I’d never be here today if I had stayed on my original career path at that Fortune 500 company.

Recently a political colleague and friend approached me about a Congressional candidate who was looking for a young operative to be his Campaign Manager. My friend wanted to know if I knew anyone aggressive and philosophically conservative who might be a good fit and, if so, would I pass along some resumes. Now this is exactly the kind of opportunity that I would’ve jumped at in my 20s as an aspiring young pol and I immediately reached out to five friends who I thought should be interested. They’re all Millennials with decent jobs and one by one each of them professed no interest. I was disappointed. But I can’t say that I was surprised.

It struck me that this wasn’t the first instance I’d seen of Millennials being overly cautious professionally. So I mentioned it to some friends and looked around online. It turns out that risk aversion is one of the defining characteristics of the Millennial generation. The Congressional Institute wrote about this phenomenon, explaining:

“Millennials were highly protected in childhood by a fortress of youth safety initiatives, which they took as evidence that they were truly valuable. This protection has translated into risk aversion in their young-adult lives.”

The risks of being risk averse are, to my mind, at least threefold for Millennials. On a personal level, we know that entrepreneurs are both more likely to be risk takers and more likely to economically outperform those who have more orthodox forms of employment. Millennials stand the risk of missing out on both the personal and financial benefits that entrepreneurism brings and that risk-taking makes possible.

The larger corporate risk, however, is to the American economy. If Millennials continue their risk-avoiding ways, it’s natural to conclude they’d have a smaller proportion of entrepreneurs among them. That could be disastrous for America if it came true.

So at the operational level, the obvious question that arises is, exactly what risky career propositions should young people be willing to take? How does one differentiate between a calculated risk while avoiding foolhardy ones? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along in my career:

  • Only take career risks that you’re confident will expand your skill set. If you’re disrupting your career without an eye towards making yourself a more valuable employee/team member, you’re already off on the wrong foot.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships. Many of Washington’s most successful operatives and strategists return to public service taking lower paid government jobs every 5-10 years. Why? Because relationships drive success. Each of us is only as successful as the contacts and friends we have. This is true in every industry, from carpentry to investment banking.
  • Don’t obsess over compensation. Bill Walsh, one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, has a great book called “The Score Takes Care of Itself.” The premise is that, if you take minute care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. So mind the little things, like the above bullet items. You do those and you’ll end up doing just fine financially.

If all of this talk of risk and reward makes you nervous or congenitally uneasy, there’s a very real chance that career-related risk taking isn’t for you. In fact, you’re probably part of the majority of people who can feel personally and professionally fulfilled without putting yourself through those ups and downs. If so, God bless you. I’m certainly not advocating taking risks for the sake of taking risks. But for those of us who literally can’t sleep at night if we don’t believe we’re attempting to maximize our professional outcomes, I hope my perspective is helpful in some small way.

Professional fulfillment for me has come because I trusted myself to assess my abilities and the professional landscape and take calculated risks based upon those assessments. Taking those risks has enriched my life in ways I never could haveforeseen. And it’s made all the difference in the world. The lesson I’ve taken from my experiences in calculated risk taking and that I’d hope the Millennial generation comes to learn soon is this: the real risk in life lies in taking no risks at all.

Keller chairing new anti-“Obamacare” group

Keller chairing new anti-“Obamacare” group

The Missouri Times

January 22, 2015 / by Rachael Herndon


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Century Foundation’s creation was announced this week by Gregg Keller, principal at Atlas Strategies. The group is a Missouri-based 501c4 public policy organization — political nonprofit group — that will be dedicated to advancing free-market initiatives in state government to help ensure the health of our state’s economy throughout the 21st century.

“I was having dinner with two of my great friends and two of Missouri and the country’s top free market political professionals: Rich Chrismer and Jim Gwinner,” Keller said. “We were commenting, specifically, on how it’s simply beyond belief that a state as conservative as Missouri would even consider expanding a program like Obamacare in our state. It’s a horrible program that’s kicked millions of Americans off their health care and the financial implications of expanding Obamacare have been dire in other states. Yet Obamacare expansion came dangerously close to becoming a reality last cycle and now our opponents are taking another run at it. We thought that we could add a common sense, free market voice to the conversation and that’s what we’re doing.”

Mike Hafner and Holly Gogel will be joining Keller at the Missouri Century Foundation.
“One of our team members who we’re most excited about is our head of Government Relations, Mike Hafner, who’s been a fixture in Missouri public policy for years,” Keller said. “Mike will be at the Capitol advocating with policy makers and their staff on the issues we care most about in 2015: stopping Obamacare expansion, protecting Missourians’ rights to assemble and associate and reforming public sector unions.”

“In addition to Board members Rich Chrismer and Jim Gwinner and head of GR Mike Hafner, we’re joined at MCF by our Policy Analyst, Holly Gogel,” Keller continued. “Holly is a former legislative director in the Capitol and a Mizzou law grad. Holly will be working with our team to ensure that our research materials and background papers are an accurate reflection of how dangerous, for example, expanding Obamacare will be to our state. She’s a rising star and one of the sharpest young lawyers conservatives have in this state and we’re lucky to have her.”

Keller told The Missouri Times that MCF is already fielding requests from groups in other states and nationally to weigh in on various issues.

“We’re telling those folks that we are focused like a laser in 2015 on advocating on issues in the Missouri legislature like Obamacare expansion,” Keller said. “While it’s flattering that our opinions are being sought on other issues, we’re going to be very disciplined about what we decide to engage on.”

Keller’s background is in campaigns and political consulting, and he says the organization will not allow him to lose focus at Atlas Strategies.

“The level of staff talent at MCF is as high as any statewide campaign, and I’ve worked on a few of those,” Keller said. “So I’ll spend a lot of time on MCF but still have time to work on other projects, political and corporate. Atlas Strategy’s first year was extremely successful, crafting winning strategies for our corporate and political clients. I’m looking forward to the company continuing to grow.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, announcing that he will file a bill to expand healthcare for veterans in Missouri. Silvey is the most outspoken Republican proponent of expanding Medicaid in the Senate.

Keller has formerly served as the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, National Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Coalitions Director on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, campaign manager on the U.S. Senate campaign of Sen. Jim Talent.

Gregg Keller launches Missouri Century Foundation

The Washington Examiner is out with a national story on a new c4 public policy organization started by Gregg Keller of Atlas Strategy Group. Keller will serve as Chairman of the Missouri Century Foundation, a Missouri-specific c4 that will busy itself with, among other priorities, stopping Obamacare expansion in the Show-Me State. You can read the full article below.


Gregg Keller Appears on “This Week in Missouri Politics”

Atlas Strategy Group’s Principal, Gregg Keller, appeared as part of a panel discussion on “This Week in Missouri Politics.” The link to the video is below.


Gregg Keller Appears on Stay Tuned StL

Atlas Strategy Group Principal Gregg Keller appeared on “Stay Tuned StL” last night as part of an election wrap-up. The link is below and Keller’s portion begins at around the 30 minute mark.


Gregg Keller interview on St. Louis NPR

I was interviewed this week on St. Louis’ NPR station as part of their Politically Speaking series. The link is after the jump; hope you enjoy it.



Republicans and Conservatives: Be of Good Cheer

Republicans and Conservatives: Be of Good Cheer

By Gregg Keller

Be of good cheer, Republicans and conservatives: the 2016 Presidential slate on our side is shaping up better than you might think. In fact, the list of potential Republican candidates for Commander in Chief stimulates every lobe of both the Republican and the conservative brain. And our reasons for optimism extend to what’s happening with the Democratic field, as well.

Surveying the Republican primary field, one must come to the conclusion that there’s something there for everyone. Searching for a northeasterner capable of energizing business-minded Republicans? I give you Chris Christie. If Gen-X rising stars are your thing, you go with Marco Rubio. Looking for a gubernatorial technocrat and policy wizard? Bobby Jindal. Pull the lever for Rand Paul if you’re a libertarian-leaning conservative. Culture warriors can choose between Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Jeb Bush was a hugely popular big-state Governor with a great story to tell. Conservative true believers are in love with Ted Cruz. Romantics who love a good comeback story can run to Rick Perry, who’s enjoying a renaissance thanks to the bumbling of national Democrats.

If you’re a Republican or a conservative who can’t find someone in this field to like, I’d submit you can’t be pleased.

And what are the prospects for Democrats? I’d submit they aren’t as pretty as the culturally-ascendant Left would have you believe. They have a frontrunner 2 years ahead of Election Day who can’t go anywhere but down in terms of grassroots energy. She has inherent problems with her Party’s base that aren’t going to go away and that, laid bare, guarantee a legitimate challenge from her Left. But Hillary Clinton’s greatest limitations aren’t political: they’re personal. Politicians should be shrewd, calculating and smart. Hillary is certainly all of those things. But they also must have personal skills, be likable and charming. Barack Obama cut right to the heart of her problem in the 2008 debate when he called her “likeable enough.” And that’s her greatest limitation. I’m sorry, but Hillary Clinton just isn’t a good politician. That doesn’t mean she can’t win – she can, and she very well could. But Republicans and conservatives should enter the next Presidential cycle confident that their slate of candidates feature several who can go the distance.

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