Your constitutional rights are under attack by the biggest of big business. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s propaganda arm, the Missouri Chamber has been in lockstep with the attack on your fundamental rights in order to provide special protections to large corporations that discriminate and harass workers, injure and kill our fellow citizens, and pollute and destroy our environment. It is outrageous that these big business special interests continue to attack our independent judiciary and use their nearly-unlimited wealth to influence legislators to further tilt the playing field to the advantage of insurance companies and big business over regular people.
The Star recently published a guest commentary co-authored by Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, and Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform. The institute’s actions serve to erode the protections of the Seventh Amendment that ordinary citizens use to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable when they injure or kill.
The commentary extolled the virtues of legislation recently passed by the Missouri General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Eric Greitens. These new bills severely undermine our Seventh Amendment constitutional rights and provide special protection to corporate wrongdoers. Mehan and Rickard suggested that these special protections for big business should have priority over victims of discrimination, defective products and medical errors, which in 2016 were the third leading cause of death in the United States.
The Chamber sought to place blame on trial lawyers for the failure of the state to attract new business, but Missouri was already a national leader in small business growth before these laws were passed. Missouri ranked 11th in the nation for small business growth in the February 2017 Paychex Small Business Jobs Index. Small business growth in Kansas City has outpaced the national average over the last 10 years and ranks 34th in the country. St. Louis — long decried by the Chamber for its judicial climate — ranked in the top 18 metro areas for small business growth, ahead of even Houston.
Missouri’s business climate is a function of its state leadership, the quality of our education systems and — most importantly — our people. The Chamber should be supporting our workers rather than trash talking our state’s business climate.
Some laws endorsed by the Chamber are so offensive they have cost the state at least half a million dollars. As reported by The Star on Oct. 13, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent state officials a letter in July informing them that Greitens’ decision to sign legislation weakening the state’s anti-discrimination protections put the state out of compliance with the Fair Housing Assistance Program. Missouri’s endorsement of discrimination will likely cost Missouri $500,000 in federal funds.
The Chamber is leading a movement to dismantle our legal system and to infringe on the rights of our citizens. We cannot pick and choose our constitutional protections. Either all of our constitutional amendments provide fundamental rights or none do. The Seventh Amendment is just as important as the Second Amendment (or the First or the Fourth). Yet, led by special interests such as the Chamber, laws continue to be enacted giving special protection to faceless corporations at the expense of the people.
It is time for the citizens of Missouri to stand up and tell our leaders to end special protection for big business. Instead they must protect the fundamental constitutional rights of the people.
John R. Campbell, Jr. is a Kansas City attorney specializing in commercial and civil litigation.